WASHINGTON (AP) — The pilot of a commercial jet that flew over Washington and crashed in a remote part of Virginia appears collapsed and unresponsive, three U.S. officials said Monday.
The revelations came as federal investigators made their way through rugged terrain to reach the site of Sunday’s plane crash into a mountain, killing four people. Officials said fighter pilots saw the civilian pilot go down The matter was briefed and spoken on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the details of the military operation.
The plane’s owner told news agencies that his daughter and 2-year-old granddaughter were on board.
The New York-bound flight took an erratic flight path — inexplicably turning over Long Island and flying directly over the nation’s capital. – This prompted the military to fight fighter jets. This caused a sonic boom Heard in Washington, Maryland and Virginia.
The remote terrain around the crash site posed a major challenge to the investigation. It took several hours for investigators to get to the rural area near the community of Montebello, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) southwest of Charlottesville, NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss said. They expect to be on the scene for at least three or four days.
Speaking at a briefing Monday morning, NTSB investigator Adam Gerhardt said the wreckage is “very fragmented” and investigators will examine the most delicate evidence at the site before the wreckage is moved by helicopter to Delaware. Further study. Gerhardt said the plane doesn’t necessarily have a flight recorder, but there are other avionics tools that could contain data that could be analyzed.
Due to the severity of the crash, the Virginia State Police released a statement saying the human remains will be transported to the state medical examiner’s office for an autopsy and identification. The Central Aviation Authority said the pilot and three passengers were among the dead but did not release their names. There were no survivors.
Investigators will look at when the pilot became unresponsive and why the plane flew that route, Gerhardt said. They will consider several factors routinely examined in such inspections, including the aircraft, its engines, weather conditions, pilot qualifications and maintenance records, he said. A preliminary report will be released in 10 days.
According to a schedule released late Monday by NTSB spokeswoman Jennifer Caprice, the flight departed from Elizabethan Municipal Airport in Tennessee at 1:13 p.m. Sunday and headed to MacArthur Airport in Long Island.
Preliminary reports indicate that the last ATC communication attempt was made with the aircraft at 1:28 p.m., when it was at an altitude of 31,000 feet (9,449 meters). The plane climbed to 34,000 feet (10,363 kilometers), where it remained in flight until 3:23 p.m., when it began descending and crashed nine minutes later. The plane was flying at an altitude of 34,000 feet (10,363 kilometers) when it overran MacArthur Airport at 2:33 p.m., the NTSB said.
The White House on Monday expressed its “deepest condolences” to the families of those on the plane.
“We need to keep them front and center,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.
Kirby deferred questions about a follow-up report to the Pentagon and the U.S. Secret Service about the security response in Washington airspace. But he said, “What I saw was a classic, textbook response.”
The White House was kept informed as military jets tried to contact the civilian plane’s pilot and tracked the small plane’s path from Washington airspace to rural Virginia, Kirby said.
Air traffic control audio from half an hour before the plane crashed captures voices identifying themselves as military pilots trying to communicate with the private plane’s pilot. LiveATC.net.
“If you hear this broadcast, contact us,” said one pilot, who identified himself as being with the Air National Guard.
A few minutes later, a military pilot says: “You have been intercepted. Contact me.”
The plane flew directly over the nation’s capital. According to the Pentagon, six F-16 fighter jets were immediately dispatched to intercept the plane. Two aircraft from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, from the 113th Fighter Wing were the first to reach the Cessna helicopter to begin an attempt to contact the pilot. Two F-16s from New Jersey and two from South Carolina responded.
Flight tracking sites showed the plane descending at one point at a rate of 30,000 feet (9,144 meters) per minute before crashing in St. Mary’s Forest.
In Fairfax, Virginia, Travis Thornton settled into a couch next to his wife, Hannah, and began recording himself playing guitar and harmonica. Video. The couple jumped in to investigate. Thornton tweeted that they checked in upstairs with their children and then he went outside to check on the house and talk to neighbors.
The plane that crashed was registered to Encore Motors, Inc., based in Melbourne, Florida. Pilot John Rumpel, who runs the company, said he was returning to his home in East Hampton, Long Island, after visiting his home in North Carolina.
Rumpel told the New York Times that he did not have much information from officials, but suggested the plane may have lost pressure.
“It was descending at 20,000 feet per minute, and no one could have survived the crash at that speed,” Rumpel told the newspaper.
In interviews with the Times and Newsday, Rumpel identified her daughter Adina Azarian and 2-year-old granddaughter Aria as two of the victims.
Azarian, 49, is well-known in real estate circles in both New York City and Long Island, described by friends and relatives as a fiercely competitive businessman who started his own brokerage firm and raised his daughter as a single parent.
“Being a mom was everything to her,” said Tara Brivik-Looper, a close friend who grew up with Azarian on the Upper East Side. “It was fitting that they were together (in the end).”
Azarian moved to East Hampton full-time to raise Aria with the help of a nanny, friends say. But he made frequent trips home, bringing both Aria and Nanny to meet his tight-knit extended family on several occasions in recent months.
“She seemed very happy there,” her cousin Andrew Azarian recalled. “The lives of both have not yet begun.”
“How did this happen?” He continued. “No one can explain it.”
Brumfield reported from Silver Spring, Maryland. Associated Press reporter Jake Offenharts and researcher Rhonda Schaffner in New York and White House correspondent Jake Miller contributed to this report.