However, on June 6, Hughes was found and arrested in California. Hughes, a Seattle native was arrested without incident on Wednesday.
At the time of his disappearance, Hughes was in his early thirties.
At the time, Hughes was single and assigned to an Air Force center in New Mexico, where he had responsibilities including "classified planning and analysis of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation command, control, and communications surveillance systems", the Air Force said.
According to the OSI, Hughes had "Top Secret / Single Scope Background Investigation clearance" at the time of his disappearance with access with U.S. Secret and NATO Secret information.
Hughes "was the "lead analyst" of the Command Control and Communication Surveillance Systems at the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, N.M., which tests new space-related weapons systems", the Times said. He was supposed to return to Albuquerque, N.M., on August 1 of that year.
Hughes was last seen withdrawing more than $28,000 in Albuquerque in the summer of 1983 after returning from a two-week vacation in Europe.
William Howard Hughes Jr. was formally declared a deserter by the Air Force Dec. 9, 1983.
Hughes was apprehended at his California home.
After Hughes disappeared, his auto was found at the Albuquerque airport and a search of his home revealed notes of planned activities and books to read upon his return, the Albuquerque Journal said. Some believed that the perpetrators were from the Soviet Union.
Hughes' sister, Christine Hughes, told the Associated Press in a January 1984 article that the family believed he had been abducted, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
Quoting anonymous intelligence sources, Szulc wrote that the intelligence community feared Hughes had either been captured by Soviets or that he voluntarily defected. The article also insinuated that Hughes' possible move to the other side was partly to blame for the Challenger disaster.
Linda Card, a spokeswoman for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, told the Albuquerque Journal Sunday that to this day officials still do not have any evidence indicating leaks of classified information.
"They (AFOSI investigators) said at this point there's no indication that he had any classified information or that he gave any classified information..." "Until we have the whole story, we don't have the story".