Around 3 pm Eastern Daylight Time, observers throughout the DC-Maryland-Virginia (DMV) Metro Area reported hearing a loud boom sound, with some remarking it sounded like a meteor explosion.
However, the sound, as has been reported, turned out to be F-16s hitting the sound barrier as they scrambled to track down a private Cessna 560 Citation V that had been unresponsive to ATC commands while flying through restricted airspace. The Citation was en route to MacArthur Airport on Long Island and took off from Elizabethton Municipal Airport in Elizabethton, Tennessee.
I was standing in downtown Washington, D.C. when the sonic boom occurred, which didn’t startle me considering the noise levels of the city are already high. Reportedly, others in more suburban areas observed broken windows.
Before the plane reached Long Island, it turned around in a near-180-degree turn without descending and remained on a constant heading until it finally crashed in a mountainous region near Montebello, Virginia—passing directly over Washington, D.C. in the process. The F16s deployed flares in an attempt to get the attention of the pilot, to no success, and to no public injury.
One possible theory behind the crash is that the occupants on board asphyxiated due to a fault in cabin pressurization sometime around their arrival into New York. Hence they would have not been able to respond to commands following up until the point where the plane ran out of fuel if fully incapacitated by hypoxia.
The FAA noted in a statement following the incident that the plane crashed on its own and was not shot down by the F16s. Further, the plane is believed to have been left on autopilot for the entirety of the flight until it stalled and fell to the ground, descending at a rate of 20,000 feet per minute or more.
According to US Capitol Police, The Capitol Complex was placed on “an elevated alert” when the Citation passed over the Capitol, considering it hadn’t responded to ATC commands since it diverted from its initial planned landing. The plane belonged to Encore Motors of Melbourne and was registered as N611VG. It is believed that Barbara Rumpel is the President of Encore Motors, and is a known businesswoman from Florida.
The plane wreckage has yet to be found since low fog and poor visibility were in the area of the crash site, but more information will likely be available on the incident once the plane is found.
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