US fighter jets chase small plane over Washington, DC |

Adeyemi Adeyemi

Global Courant

The Cessna, with an unresponsive pilot, later crashed in Virginia and officials say no survivors have been found.

The US military has downed F-16 fighter jets in a supersonic pursuit of a wayward and unresponsive plane that flew over Washington, DC before crashing into the mountains of Virginia.

No survivors were found at the scene of the crash on Sunday, Virginia state police said.

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The Federal Aviation Administration said the Cessna Citation had taken off from Elizabethtown, Tennessee earlier in the day and was heading for New York’s Long Island.

Inexplicably, the plane turned over over Long Island and flew in a straight line over the U.S. capital before crashing over mountainous terrain near Montebello, Virginia, at about 3:30 p.m. local time (7:30 p.m. GMT).

There were four people on board the Cessna, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters news agency. A Cessna Citation can carry as many as 12 passengers.

It was not immediately clear why the plane failed to respond or why it crashed.

The Cessna was registered to Encore Motors of Melbourne, Florida, according to Flight Aware, the flight tracking website.

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John Rumpel, who runs the company, told The New York Times that his daughter, two-year-old granddaughter, her nanny and the pilot were on board the plane. They returned to their home in East Hampton, Long Island, after visiting his home in North Carolina, he said.

Rumpel, a pilot, told the paper he didn’t have much information from authorities, but hoped his family wasn’t suffering and suggested the plane may be depressurized.

“It was descending at 20,000 feet (6,000 meters) per minute, and no one could survive a crash of that speed,” he said.

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The U.S. military scrambled F-16 fighter jets and attempted to contact the pilot, who did not respond, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said in a statement.

The jets generated a sonic boom over the US capital as they chased the Cessna, officials said.

Residents of the city and its suburbs reported hearing the thunderous noise, which rattled windows and shook walls for miles and caused social media to light up with people asking what had happened.

Several residents said they heard the sound as far north as Virginia and Maryland.

“The NORAD aircraft were authorized to fly at supersonic speeds and a sonic boom may have been heard by residents of the region,” the statement said, adding that fighter jets also used flares in an attempt to get the pilot’s attention.

The U.S. Capitol Complex in Washington, D.C., meanwhile, was “briefly on a heightened state of alert until the plane left the area,” Capitol Police said on Twitter.

The episode brought back memories of the 1999 crash of a Learjet that lost cabin pressure and flew aimlessly across the country with professional golfer Payne Stewart on board. The plane crashed into a South Dakota pasture, killing six people.

In the case of Stewart’s flight, the plane lost cabin pressure, causing the occupants to lose consciousness due to lack of oxygen.

Similarly, a small US private jet with an unresponsive pilot crashed off the east coast of Jamaica in 2014 after going far off course and triggering a US security alert, including a fighter jet escort.

US fighter jets chase small plane over Washington, DC |

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