Fighter Jets Tracking Unresponsive Plane Over Cuba

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An Socata TBM-700, a light business and utility aircraft, bound to Naples, Florida from Rochester, New York became unresponsive Friday afternoon, September 5, 2014. Courtesy: CNN


UPDATE: The unresponsive plane has crashed in the water off the coast of Jamaica, according to the FAA.

A Cuban fighter jet Friday was trailing a small aircraft that was unresponsive over the Atlantic Ocean and flying south of Cuba, NORAD said.

F-15 pilots tracking the unresponsive plane could see, before the small plane’s windows frosted, a pilot slumped over, a NORAD official said. The official said one or two other people are believed to be on board, though the number has not been confirmed.

U.S. authorities say that do not believe the plane poses a security threat and that the pilot and occupants may be incapacitated.

There appear to be two pilots aboard the unresponsive plane, a federal aviation source told CNN. The source described the pilots as unconscious.

Based on calculations of fuel known to be aboard the aircraft, the source said the plane was expected to run out of fuel around 2 p.m. ET.

The U.S. military launched a pair of jet fighters to trail the aircraft, but the U.S. planes broke off before reaching Cuban airspace 12 miles off the island’s coast, NORAD said. The plane was cruising about 25,000 feet.

Ted Soliday, executive director of the Naples, Florida, airport where the plane was headed, told CNN that he did not know how many people were on board the six-seat aircraft. It’s believed the plane could be running out of fuel.

“Once it gets up that high, it can cruise at good speed with low fuel use,” he said.

Two F-15s had been flying with the plane east of Florida. The windows, according to a NORAD spokesman, were frosted and it was unknown how much fuel was left.

“We do not know the people or what their condition is,” Soliday said. “They been flying for almost five hours. That’s a long time for that aircraft.”

NORAD was in touch with Cuban authorities via the U.S. Coast Guard. The U.S. military jets will not enter Cuban airspace, a NORAD spokesman said.

The Socata TBM-700 light business and utility aircraft departed from Rochester, New York, with a flight plan to land in Naples, NORAD said. But the plane’s occupants did not respond to communication attempts.