A twin-engine aircraft crashed into the Gulf of Mexico after the pilot was unresponsive for nearly three hours as radar tracked the plane flying aimlessly in loops.
The FAA lost radio contact with the Cessna 412 before 9 a.m. ET. It was circling at approximately 28,000 feet. Fully loaded, the plane was carrying about 3.5 hours worth of fuel. Only the pilot was thought to be on board.
The plane took off from Slidell, La., and was en route to Sarasota, Fla., according to a flight plan. Somewhere between the two points, it began flying in circles.
Officials at NORAD confirmed that the air defense agency has launched two F-15 fighter aircraft to intercept the general aircraft over the Gulf of Mexico.
NORAD spokesman John Cornelio said the fighter jets made contact visual with the aircraft over the Gulf around 8:45am. They monitored the situation providing overhead cover.
"We are monitoring the flight pattern and the aircraft remains unresponsive," said Cornelio before the crash.
In addition to the Air Force F-15s, the Coast Guard has dispatched an HC-144 ocean sentry airplane from Mobile, Ala. An NH-60 Helicopter is on stand by in Clearwater, Fla. The US Coast Guard Cutter Coho is en route.
The Coast Guard issued a safety net urging mariners to keep a lookout for the plane.