The body of a pilot has been found in the wreckage of a light plane that went missing on Wednesday after taking off from coastal NSW, headed for Victoria.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority has confirmed the pilot, the only person on board the Cessna 182, was dead inside the crashed plane that was found about 20 km west of Mt Hotham in Victoria’s northeast about 8.40am.

AMSA spokesman Sam Cardwell said the wreckage was found by a search helicopter and a rescuer was lowered down to the plane. 

He said the wreckage was in extremely rugged countryside.

The plane was due to land at Mangalore Airport, about two hours north of Melbourne, at 11am on Wednesday but never arrived.

Eight helicopters and two fixed wing planes had narrowed the search to a 20 nautical mile wide route between Mangalore and Mount Hotham, after the AMSA received radar data overnight as well as reports of unconfirmed sightings of the wreckage.

The single engine Cessna took off from Moruya on the far south coast of NSW at 8.15am on Wednesday.

Five aircraft had searched for the plane on Wednesday without success.

with AAP