F-16s dispatched for unresponsive small plane near D.C.

A plane destined for the Manassas Regional Airport in Virginia entered restricted airspace near Washington, D.C., alarming authorities and prompting the dispatch of two F-16 fighter jets.


Reuters reported the jets were dispatched to check on the plane and the pilots stated that the person controlling the Cirrus SR22 propeller plane appeared to be unconscious.  The pilot did not respond to radio calls.


The plane, which took off from the Waukesha County Airport in Wisconsin, failed to land as scheduled and continued at an altitude of 13,000 feet.  In doing so, the flight made its way into restricted airspace.  It continued past its predetermined destination until it ran out of fuel and plunged into the Atlantic Ocean.


According to Reuters, the Coast Guard declined to identify the pilot pending notification of next of kin.  Authorities sent a cutter ship, an airplane, and a helicopter to the crash site in an attempt to search for the wreckage and the remains of the pilot.  Nothing has yet to be recovered according to Coast Guard spokesperson Petty Officer Nate Littlejohn.


This is not the first time that military F-16s have had to step in to check on a plane that is unresponsive.  In 2009, CNN reported on an incident that involved a small plane where the pilot did not respond to radio calls.


The plane ended up crashing into a farm field in Randolph County, Indiana.  It had departed from Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Luckily there were no reports of injuries on the ground.  The only fatality was the pilot who was the sole occupant of the plane.


Upon intercepting the aircraft, the F-16 pilots found the pilot was unresponsive.  The North American Aerospace Defense Command did not believe the incident was terrorist related and it may have been a medical solution.


F-16s often get involved in incidents that pose possible threats to the safety to U.S. airspace and passengers on planes.


Back in July, NBC News reported that a plane on its way to Panama from Canada had to turn back because of an unruly passenger making threats against the aircraft.


Two F-16 fighter jets left a mission in Ohio to escort the plane back to Toronto.  They shadowed by the plane until it landed safely at Pearson Airport.


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