PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) — The Coast Guard says a small plane has sunk into the Gulf of Mexico and that crews flying over the site saw no signs that its pilot survived the crash.
The pilot was the only person on the Cessna 421C. It went down Thursday about three hours after two F-15 fighter jets tried to make contact with the unresponsive pilot.
Coast Guard Chief John Edwards said the plane landed right-side up on the ocean surface and floating, but monitoring planes did not see a life raft deploy and never made contact with the pilot. The plane has since begun sinking into the Gulf about 120 miles west of Tampa, Fla.
A Coast Guard cutter and rescue helicopter are en route to the crash site.
Two jets caught up with the Cessna 421C at 8:45 EDT and were flying with it and monitoring it, but hadn’t been able to hail the pilot, said North American Aerospace Defense Command spokesman John Cornelio.
The two F-15s from the New Orleans National Guard were already on a mission over the Gulf, Coast Guard Chief John Edwards said in a news release. The Jacksonville Air Traffic Control Center asked the military if jets could check on the plane that was orbiting near one of Eglin Air Force Base’s warning areas over the Gulf, Edwards said. Eglin is located on Florida’s Panhandle.
The jets’ pilots reported that the Cessna’s windshield was iced over and that the plane was fluctuating between 25,000 and 35,000 feet.
The Cessna went down at about 12:10 p.m., some 120 miles west of Tampa, Fla., said Petty Officer Elizabeth Boderland with the Coast Guard in New Orleans.
Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said the plane was flying from Slidell, La., to Sarasota, Fla. She says one person was on board and that the FAA had been tracking the plane since it lost contact with the pilot at 9 a.m.
Federal Aviation Administration records show that the Cessna was registered to Lee H. Aviation in Wilmington, Del. The address listed on the FAA registry corresponds with that of Delaware Registry Ltd., a company that provides corporate services and registers both airplanes and yachts. A woman who answered the phone at Delaware Registry said the company does not give out information about its clients.
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