October 2, 2009 (by Air Combat Command) - At approximately 10.15h EDT, September 30th, when radio calls to a civilian pilot went unanswered, the Continental U.S. NORAD Region, along with the 601st Air and Space Operations Center, responded by scrambling fighter jets to assist with the unresponsive aircraft.
The Mooney M20M single engine plane departed Grand Rapids, Mich., on a local post-maintenance sortie. Approximately one hour and 20 minutes into the flight, communications between the pilot and air traffic controllers ceased. F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Continental U.S. NORAD
Region scrambled to make airborne contact with the aircraft.
The fighters (From 163 Fighter Squadron - Indiana Air National Guard) completed the intercept and made visual contact with the plane at approximately 10.30h The fighters attempted to gain the pilot's attention through a series of actions, which included radio calls and visual signals. The jets maintained visual contact with the aircraft until the aircraft lost altitude and crashed near Muncie, Ind.
"We want to express our sympathy to the pilot's family and friends at this difficult time," said Brig. Gen. Andre Viens, Continental U.S. NORAD Region deputy commander. "We always hope for a positive outcome on situations like this, but our inter-agency partners did everything in their power to assist the pilot."
The 601st AOC - America's AOC - is responsible for the detection, deterrence, defense and defeat of threats to the citizens of the United States and its critical infrastructure, and remains at the operational level of command and control to monitor all air traffic in the Continental United States.
The cause of the accident is under investigation.