WASHINGTON — A temperamental and unresponsive business jet that flew over the nation’s capital on Sunday afternoon caused the military to scramble a fighter jet before the plane crashed in Virginia, officials said. The fighter jet caused a loud sonic boom that was heard throughout the capital region.
The Federal Aviation Administration said the Cessna Citation took off from Elizabethtown, Tennessee, on Sunday and was heading for Long Island’s MacArthur Airport. Inexplicably, the plane circled back over Long Island in New York and followed a straight course over DC before crashing into mountainous terrain near Montebello, Virginia at around 3:30 p.m.
It was not immediately clear why the plane was unresponsive, why it crashed or how many people were on board.
A US official confirmed to The Associated Press that the military aircraft rushed to respond to the small plane, which then crashed. The official was not authorized to publicly discuss details of the military operation and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Flight tracking sites showed the jet had undergone a rapid spiral descent, at one point falling at a speed of over 30,000 feet per minute before crashing into the St. Mary’s Wilderness.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command later said in a statement that the F-16 was cleared to travel at supersonic speeds, which caused a sonic boom.
“During this occurrence, the NORAD aircraft also used flares – which may have been visible to the public – in an attempt to get the pilot’s attention,” the statement said. “Flares are used with the utmost respect for the safety of intercepted aircraft and people on the ground. Flares extinguish quickly and completely and there is no danger to people on the ground when dispensed.
The plane that crashed was registered with Encore Motors of Melbourne Inc. A woman who identified herself as Barbara Rumpel, who is listed as the company’s president in Melbourne, Florida, said she n had made no comment on Sunday when she was reached by a reporter from The Associated Press.
President Joe Biden was golfing at Joint Base Andrews when the fighter jet took off. Anthony Guglielmi, spokesman for the US Secret Service, said the incident had no impact on the president’s movements on Sunday. Biden was golfing at the military base in Maryland with his brother in the afternoon.
A White House official said: “The President has been made aware of the incident. The resulting sound from the cleared DOD aircraft was low at JBA.
The Pentagon and the DC Air National Guard did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Sunday.
Associated Press writers Chris Megerian in Washington and Christopher Weber in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
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