F-16s Escort Mooney With Unresponsive Pilot

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Click for a larger image of the flight path, via Flightaware

A Mooney crashed Wednesday morning near Muncie, Ind., after the pilot, who was alone on board, became disoriented and then failed to respond to ATC. Two F-16s from the Indiana National Guard intercepted the airplane, which was flying erratically, [see FlightAware tracklog] and provided an escort until the airplane lost altitude and crashed in a cornfield about an hour after takeoff. Military officials told The Associated Press the pilot appeared to be suffering from hypoxia or perhaps a health problem. The airplane had launched in Grand Rapids, Mich., after having maintenance done, and was traveling at about 23,000 feet when ATC lost contact. Officials would not comment on the condition of the pilot, according to the AP.

The F-16s operated under the direction of NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command. The intent of military intercepts, according to NORAD, is to identify aircraft, re-establish communications with local FAA air traffic controllers and instruct the pilot to follow air traffic controllers to land safely for further follow-on action.