KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) — Trailed much of the way by two U.S. fighter jets, a small plane with an unresponsive pilot flew a ghostly 1,700-mile journey down the East Coast and through Cuban airspace on Friday before finally crashing off the coast of Jamaica. The fate of the pilot and anyone else aboard was not immediately known.
Maj. Basil Jarrett of the Jamaican Defense Force said the plane went down about 14 miles (22 kilometers) northeast of the northern coastal town of Port Antonio and the military sent two aircraft and a dive team to investigate.
The plane took off at 8:45 a.m. EDT from the Greater Rochester International Airport in New York, according to local officials. Air traffic controllers were last able to contact the pilot of the Socata TBM700, a high performance single-engine turboprop, at 10 a.m. EDT, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement.
The agency said it had not confirmed the number of people aboard and Jarrett said he had no information on passengers.
The pilot, who was not identified, had filed a flight plan with the FAA to fly from Rochester to Naples, Florida. Fighter jets were scrambled at 11:30 a.m. EDT and followed the plane until it reached Cuban airspace, when they peeled off, said Preston Schlachter, a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command & US Northern Command. FlightAware, an aviation tracking website, showed the plane over the Caribbean south of Cuba at about 2 p.m. EDT.
It finally came down after flying more than 1,700 miles (2,700 kilometers).
FlightAware identified the plane’s tail number as N900KN. FAA records show the plane, a model that sells new for $3.5 million in its standard version, is owned by a company based at the same address as a real estate firm in Rochester. The firm, Buckingham Properties, is owned by developer Larry Glazer, who also is president of the TBM Owners and Pilots Association.
A person who answered the phone at Buckingham Properties declined to comment. Glazer’s son Rick Glazer told The Associated Press: “I don’t have any comment about what’s going on at this time.”
According to Buckingham’s website, “Larry spends some of his spare time on the ground — gardening around his house with his wife, Jane; and some in the sky — flying his plane.”
The Air Force and Transportation Security Administration contacted Rochester airport officials about the plane at about 10:45 a.m., according to Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks. The airport referred all inquiries to the FAA.
The incident is the second time in less than a week that private pilot has become unresponsive during a flight. On Saturday, a pilot lost consciousness and his plane drifted into restricted airspace over the nation’s capital. Fighter jets were also launched in that case and stayed with the small aircraft until it ran out of fuel and crashed Saturday into the Atlantic.
Joan Lowy reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Ben Fox in Miami and Carolyn Thompson in Buffalo, N.Y., and Judith Ausuebel in New York contributed to this report.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.