F-16s intercept rogue business jet near Washington, scaring locals

NORAD F-16 fighter jets scrambled to intercept a business jet that veered off its set course, eventually crashing, killing all onboard.
Christopher McFadden
All people onboard the Cessna jet appear to have lost their lives.


North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) F-16 fighter jets were scrambled to intercept an unresponsive Cessna Citation business jet over Washington D.C. yesterday afternoon. Officials confirm that the jets were authorized to travel at supersonic speeds for the intercept, which generated a sonic boom over the city.

The F-16s did not shoot down the aircraft and were called upon by the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure public safety in response to an unsafe flying situation.

"The NORAD aircraft were authorized to travel at supersonic speeds and a sonic boom may have been heard by residents in the region," NORAD said. Also, according to a NORAD statement, the F-16s deployed flares as a strategy to get the Cessna 560 Citation V pilot's attention.

According to official statements, the jet departed from Elizabethton in Tenessee earlier in the day and was, according to its flight manifest, destined for Long Island MacArthur Airport in New York. However, the jet never reached its destination and apparently turned around over Long Island to fly straight for the U.S. capital. According to sources familiar with the investigation, CNN reports, the aircraft had four people on board and went off course by 315 miles (507 km) before ultimately crashing.

According to FAA records, the crashed private jet belonged to Encore Motors of Melbourne, Inc., a Florida-based company headed by Barbara Rumpel. When contacted on Sunday, Barbara's husband, John Rumpel, confirmed that they were the company's owners and assured CNN that Barbara was safe.

However, Mrs. Rumpel left a comment on someone else's Facebook post, expressing that her family, including her daughter and granddaughter, have "gone." John Rumpel, Mrs. Rumpel's husband, did, however, informed the Washington Post that his family, consisting of his daughter, granddaughter, and nanny, were also on the flight. The family had just returned from a four-day visit to North Carolina and were returning to their home in East Hampton, New York. The granddaughter was only 2 years old.

The NORAD fighter jets caught up with the Cessna at around 3:20 pm, who reported that the Cessna was unresponsive to their hails. The business jet eventually crashed near the George Washington National Forest in Virginia. According to local police, no survivors were found onboard the downed jet.

According to a statement from Virginia State Police, they were informed of a potential airplane crash in the Staunton/Blue Ridge Parkway area at 3:50 pm. "Search efforts are still underway by state and local law enforcement," a state police spokesperson told NPR via email on Sunday evening. "Nothing has been located at this time," they added. However, according to CNN, the state police have halted their search and plan to reveal the identities of the individuals aboard the aircraft once that information becomes accessible.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are investigating the incident. According to the FAA, the NTSB will lead the investigation, and they will be responsible for providing updates in the future.

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