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Plane with unresponsive pilot wanders off course

September 5, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) — A private plane with an unresponsive pilot traveled more than 1,400 miles (2,250 kilometers) over the Atlantic Ocean off the East Coast and into the Caribbean on Friday, with a fighter-jet escort unable to render aid.

The plane took from the Greater Rochester International Airport, according to local officials. Air traffic controllers were last able to contact the pilot of the Socata TBM700, a high performance single-engine turboprop, at 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT), the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement.

The pilot, who was not identified, had filed a flight plan with the FAA to fly from Rochester, New York, to Naples, Florida. The fighter jets were scrambled at 11:30 a.m. EDT (1530 GMT)and followed the plane until it reached Cuban airspace, when they peeled off, said Preston Schlachter, a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command & US Northern Command. Flightaware, an aviation tracking website, showed the plane over the Caribbean south of Cuba at about 2 p.m. EDT (1800GMT).

FlightAware identified the plane’s tail number as N900KN. FAA records show the plane is owned by a company based at the same address as a real estate firm in Rochester. The firm, Buckingham Properties, is owned by developer Larry Glazer, who also is president of the TBM Owners and Pilots Association.

A person who answered the phone at Buckingham Properties declined to comment. Glazer’s son Rick Glazer told The Associated Press: “I don’t have any comment about what’s going on at this time.”

According to Buckingham’s website, “Larry spends some of his spare time on the ground — gardening around his house with his wife, Jane; and some in the sky — flying his plane.”

The Air Force and Transportation Security Administration contacted Rochester airport officials about the plane at about 10:45 a.m., according to Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks. The airport referred all inquiries to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The incident marks the second time in less than a week that private pilot has become unresponsive during a flight. On Saturday, a pilot lost consciousness and his plane drifted into restricted airspace over the nation’s capital. Fighter jets were also launched in that case and stayed with the small aircraft until it ran out of fuel and crashed Saturday into the Atlantic.

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Associated Press writer Carolyn Thompson in Buffalo, New York, contributed to this report.