Unresponsive Pilot Crashes In Gulf

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Shortly before 9 a.m., Thursday, the pilot of a Cessna 421C out of Slidell, La., for Sarasota, Fla., fell silent on the radio and the aircraft climbed to 30,000 feet, circling, until it crashed in the Gulf of Mexico. The pilot was the sole occupant of the pressurized six- to eight-seat twin. Early reports state that no one left the plane after impact and before it sank in roughly 1,500 feet of water some 120 miles west of Tampa. Air traffic controllers tracked the flight on radar and two National Guard F-15s were launched out of New Orleans to make visual contact. The fighters found the Cessna wandering between 25,000 and 35,000 feet, flying in circles, and reported that the windscreen was iced over.

According to Flight Aware, the estimated departure time for the roughly 490-mile flight (direct) was 6:43 a.m., central time. National Guard and Coast Guard personnel reportedly watched the aircraft impact the water at about 12:30, eastern. The 421C is capable of cruising in excess of 200 knots well beyond the roughly 420 nm separating this flight's departure and destination cities. The Coast Guard dispatched search and rescue aircraft, but did not have a Cutter on scene by the time of the crash.