A sonic boom rocked the DC area Sunday afternoon as fighter jets scrambled to intercept an unresponsive private plane that flew over the nation’s capital.
The Federal Aviation committee said the small private Cessna aircraft took off from Tennessee intending to land at Long Island’s MacArthur Airport.
For no discernible reason, the plane suddenly turned around over Long Island and flew a direct path over DC before crashing in a remote part of Virginia.
It flew through notoriously restricted airspace around the Capitol, causing six jets to scramble from three different locations. According to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), two of those jets actually intercepted the private plane.
It remains unclear why the pilot was nonresponsive and why it ultimately crashed.
Flight tracking sites showed the plane eventually spiraled rapidly at 30,000 feet per minute before crashing into the St. Mary’s Wildness area in Virginia.
A later statement from NORAD said the F-16s were authorized to fly at supersonic speeds in their pursuit of the plane. The resulting sonic boom was heard across the DC area and captured on home security cameras hundreds of miles away.
“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.”
President Joe Biden was golfing at Joint Base Andrews at the time of the incident. Secret Service said it had no impact on his schedule.
Plane’s Origins and Tragic Passenger List
The plane was registered to Encore Motors of Melbourne Inc, which is based out of Florida.
John Rumple, the owner of the company, told the New York Times that his daughter, two-year-old granddaughter, her nanny, and the pilot were the four passengers on the aircraft.
He said he hadn’t received much information from authorities at that time but hoped his family didn’t suffer.
The crash is reminiscent of a 1999 incident when professional golfer Payne Stewart’s plane lost pressurization and flew aimlessly before crashing in South Dakota.