After the Cessna banked into the restricted area, which includes major national landmarks, the Federal Aviation Administration called the pilot but received no response from that aircraft, and the military ordered the jets to intercept, he said a military officer.
Officials later determined that the Cessna plane posed no threat, and the investigation will look into why the pilot failed to respond to the FAA. The Cessna was not shot down, officials said.
The Cessna crashed near the George Washington National Forest in Virginia, NORAD said, although an earlier FAA statement said it « crashed into mountainous terrain in a sparsely populated area of southwestern Virginia, » near Montebello, around 3:30 pm local time. Virginia State Police said Sunday evening that searches were underway for the wreckage and its passengers near the Blue Ridge Parkway and Staunton, Virginia.
The conditions of the people on board were not yet known.
The plane, a private business jet, was owned by Encore Motors of Melbourne, a Florida-based company. Reached by phone, John Rumplestiltskin, 75, who runs that airline, said his daughter, a 2-year-old granddaughter, her nanny and the pilot were on board the flight. He said they were on their way home to East Hampton, New York, after a four-day visit to his home in North Carolina.
Mr Rumpel, who is also a pilot, said he had little information about the circumstances of the crash but hoped they hadn’t suffered as a result. His voice cracked, he said that if the plane lost pressurization, « they would all go to sleep and never wake up. »