A small business plane left the airport in Rochester, New York at 8:45 a.m. on Friday morning bound for Naples, Florida. Somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, ground controllers lost contact with the plane and NORAD scrambled F-15 fighter jets to intercept it.
The NORAD pilots reported that the pilot appeared to be slumped over at the controls, indicating a loss of cabin pressure.
The fighters accompanied the plane until it entered Cuban airspace, where the Coast Guard notified Cuban officials of the plane’s course.
The plane is registered to a business owned by local real estate developer Larry Glazer in Rochester and it is not known at this time who or how many are on board, but the plane, a single engine turboprop Socata TBM 700, seats 6 to 7 passengers.
The FAA issued a statement saying:
“Federal Aviation Administration Air Traffic Controllers tracked a Socata TBM700 aircraft through U.S. airspace as the pilot stopped responding to radio calls at about 10 am EDT. The aircraft flew along the east coast of Florida before entering Cuban airspace. The FAA routinely coordinates with Cuban air traffic controllers on flights that overfly both countries. The flight departed from Greater Rochester Intl. Airport in New York and was headed to Naples Municipal Airport in Florida. We have not confirmed the number of persons on board.”
UPDATE from ABC News:
An unresponsive turboprop plane flying from New York to Florida has crashed off the coast of Jamaica.
Three people were on board the plane, which left Rochester, New York, this morning bound for Naples, Florida, according to a statement from the U.S. Coast Guard.
“The plane’s occupants did not respond to attempts to communicate,” the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said this morning. The plane had been scheduled to arrive in Florida at 12pm.
The U.S. Air Force disptached two F-15 jets to shadow the plane until it entered Cuban airspace, according to a NORAD spokeswoman.
The fighter jets were initially supposed to fly around Cuba’s eastern end and wait in international airspace to pick up the trail, officials said. But the planes instead returned to base to refuel.
Fog was observed on the aircraft’s windows, according to NORAD, which suggests all aboard were unconscious as the plane continued to fly.
The aircraft was flying at an altitude of 25,000 feet and has not been responding to radio calls since 10 a.m. ET, according to a statement from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The FAA reported the plane to be a Socata TBM-700, while FlightAware said it believes the aircraft is a TBM-900.