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U.S. military scrambles jets to track airplane before it crashes

  • Story Highlights
  • Single-engine Cirrus SR22 flew more than 300 miles past destination
  • It crashes in rural West Virginia on Thursday night; pilot is killed
  • NORAD sends two F-16s to track plane; military fails to make contact with pilot
  • Downed aircraft is registered to Sequoia Airways in Avon, Indiana
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(CNN) -- The U.S. military scrambled fighter jets to track a single-engine airplane that flew more than 300 miles past its scheduled destination before crashing in rural West Virginia on Thursday night, the U.S. Northern Command said.

The pilot, the only person aboard, was killed in the crash, CNN affiliate WSAZ reported. He apparently became incapacitated during the flight and flew past his destination, aviation officials told the affiliate.

North American Aerospace Defense Command sent two F-16s to follow the Cirrus SR22 at the request of the Federal Aviation Administration after it overshot Eagle Creek in northwestern Indiana, the scheduled stop on its flight from York, Nebraska.

The FAA lost contact with the plane as it flew by the airport, according to the FAA's Arlene Salac, prompting the agency to contact NORAD.

The two fighter jets eventually overtook the plane and tried without success to make contact with the pilot visually, with flares, and via radio, Salac said. The plane crashed about 8 p.m. -- two hours and one time zone later -- northwest of Henderson, West Virginia.

The aircraft is registered to Sequoia Airways in Avon, Indiana, according to the FAA.

The SR22 is a is a high-performance single-engine, four-seat aircraft. The model is equipped with the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System, which deploys a parachute designed to control the descent of the aircraft to the ground in an emergency.

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