U.S. air controllers track plane with unresponsive pilot off Florida

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 05, 2014 2:35 PM

MIAMI (Reuters) - U.S. air traffic controllers tracked a small plane with an unresponsive pilot off the Florida coast on Friday, apparently headed towards Cuba.

The single-engine, seven-seater plane, which left from New York state and was Florida-bound, was flying at an altitude of 25,000 feet (7,620 meters) southbound over the Atlantic Ocean, according to a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

It was trailed by two F-15 fighter jets, according to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). The jets broke off after the plane entered Cuban airspace.

"The pilot has not been responding to radio calls since 10 am EDT," the FAA said.

CNN reported that the F-15 pilots who were tracking the aircraft could see the pilot slumped over before the plane's windows frosted over.

A Cuban aviation official told Reuters that Cuba was in touch with U.S. authorities about the plane and that Cuban airspace has not been violated.

"There has been no violation of the airspace, and we are working in coordination with authorities in the United States," said an official with Cuba's Civil Aviation Institute.

The flight departed from Greater Rochester International Airport in New York on Friday morning and was headed to Naples Municipal Airport in Florida, the FAA added.

CNN reported that there appeared to be two pilots in the plane, but Reuters could not independently confirm that.

The U.S. Coast Guard also reported that a C-130 aircraft from Clearwater, on the Florida west coast, was "enroute to unresponsive aircraft."

The turbo prop plane was identified as a Socata TBM700, a small private plane.

(Reporting By David Adams; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Sandra Maler)