NORAD Scrambled F-16 to Intercept Wayward Business Jet

  • The military jet caused a sonic boom while pursuing the small plane, which later crashed.
  • It was not immediately clear why the plane was nonresponsive, why it crashed, or who was on board.
  • The plane was registered to Encore Motors of Melbourne Inc. The company’s president had no comment.

Officials said a wayward and unresponsive business plane that flew over the nation’s capital Sunday afternoon caused the military to scramble a fighter jet before the plane crashed in Virginia.

The fighter jet caused a loud sonic boom across the capital region.

The Federal Aviation Administration says the Cessna Citation took off from Elizabethtown, Tennessee, on Sunday and was headed for Long Island’s MacArthur Airport. Inexplicably, the plane turned around over New York’s Long Island and flew a straight path down over Washington, D.C., before it crashed over mountainous terrain near Montebello, Virginia, around 3:30 p.m.

It was not immediately clear why the plane was nonresponsive or why it crashed. Sources told CNN there were four people on board the Cessna 560 Citation V and that the plane overshot its planned destination by 315 miles. 

Potomac Local News reported that Virginia State Police were able to reach the crash site by foot and that no survivors were found.

A US official confirmed to the Associated Press the military jet had scrambled to respond to the small plane, which later crashed. The official was not authorized to discuss details of the military operation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Flight tracking sites showed the jet suffered a rapid spiraling descent, dropping at one point at a rate of more than 30,000 feet per minute before crashing in the St. Mary’s Wilderness. 

A news release from the Continental US North American Aerospace Defense Command Region said “the pilot was unresponsive and the Cessna subsequently crashed near the George Washington National Forest, Virginia,” per CNN. “NORAD attempted to establish contact with the pilot until the aircraft crashed.”

The North American Aerospace Defense Command later said the F-16 was authorized to travel at supersonic speeds, which caused a sonic boom.

“During this event, the NORAD aircraft also used flares – which may have been visible to the public – in an attempt to draw attention from the pilot,” the statement said. “Flares are employed with highest regard for safety of the intercepted aircraft and people on the ground. Flares burn out quickly and completely and there is no danger to the people on the ground when dispensed.”

The plane that crashed was registered to Encore Motors of Melbourne Inc. A woman who identified herself as Barbara Rumpel, listed as the company’s president in Melbourne, Florida, said she had no comment Sunday when reached by the AP.

President Joe Biden was playing golf at Joint Base Andrews around the time the fighter jet took off. Anthony Guglielmi, spokesperson for the Secret Service, said the incident did not impact the president’s movements Sunday. Biden played golf at the Maryland military base with his brother in the afternoon.

A White House official said: “The President was briefed on the incident. The sound resulting from the authorized DOD aircraft was faint at JBA.”

The Pentagon and the D.C. Air National Guard did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Sunday.

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