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Fighter jets scrambled after pilot fails to respond

WASHINGTON -- Two F-15 fighter jets were following a private plane with three people on board over the Atlantic Ocean Friday after its pilot failed to respond to repeated contact attempts by air traffic controllers, government officials and the U.S. Coast Guard said.

CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports that the fighters who responded to the unresponsive plane initially saw the pilot slumped over. But then the cockpit windows frosted over -- signs of cabin decompression and hypoxia.

The Coast Guard said it had launched a C-130 aircrew from Clearwater, Florida to monitor the plane.

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 Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement. The plane took off at 8:45 a.m. EDT from the Greater Rochester International Airport. The pilot, who was not identified, had filed a flight plan with the FAA to fly from Rochester, New York, to Naples, Florida.

The FAA said the aircraft was flying at an altitude of 25,000 feet southbound off the Florida coast over the Atlantic Ocean.

The fighter jets were launched at 11:30 a.m. EDT Friday, said Preston Schlachter, a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command & U.S. Northern Command.

Flightaware, an aviation tracking website, was tracking the path of the plane, which crossed over Cuba.


The incident marks the second time in less than a week that a 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.

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