Fri, 29 Sep 2023

U.S. authorities scrambled jet fighters in a high-speed chase of a light aircraft that violated airspace in the Washington, D.C., area and later crashed into mountainous terrain in southwest Virginia, U.S. officials said.

The jet fighters caused a sonic boom over the U.S. capital as they raced to catch up with the Cessna Citation, which can carry between seven to 12 passengers, officials said.

The Federal Aviation Administration said a Cessna aircraft crashed into mountainous terrain in southwest Virginia around the time the sonic boom was heard in the capital.

A U.S. official said the jet fighters did not cause the crash.

A source familiar with the matter said the Cessna was believed to be on autopilot and did not respond to authorities. It was not immediately clear why the pilot was unresponsive.

While rare, incidents involving unresponsive pilots are not unprecedented. Golfer Payne Stewart died in 1999 along with four others after the aircraft he was in streaked across thousands of miles with the pilot and passengers unresponsive. The plane eventually crashed in South Dakota with no survivors.

The sonic boom caused consternation among many residents in the capital region who took to Twitter to report hearing a loud noise that shook the ground and walls. Several residents said they heard the noise as far away as northern Virginia and Maryland.

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