The U.S. Coast Guard is conducting search-and-rescue operations after a small private plane stopped communicating with air traffic controllers over Texas and appeared to crash into the Gulf of Mexico.
North American Aerospace Defense Command said Thursday that two F-16s took off Wednesday from Ellington Field in Houston, Texas, to intercept to the Cirrus SR22, which failed to respond to emergency radio contact attempts from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The small plane took off from Wiley Post Airport near Oklahoma City and was supposed to fly to Georgetown, Texas.
We're following reports that @USCG is now conducting a search for N325JK, a Cirrus SR22T that is reported missing in the Gulf of Mexico.— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) January 4, 2018
Last position received.
14900 ft AMSL
HDG 237https://t.co/3B0zlHuWh5 pic.twitter.com/MFEtBTwTu8
Pilots N Paws — a non-profit organization that flies animals from kill shelters to foster homes, no-kill shelter, or permanent homes — confirmed in a Facebook post the plane's pilot was working for the organization.
"In response to the many inquiries, stories being circulated by various media outlets, as well as social media posts regarding a lost aircraft piloted by a Pilots N Paws volunteer en route to pickup a rescue dog, we have chosen not to release any details at this time out of respect for the family," the organization stated on Facebook.
"We remain hopeful that our pilot will be found safely, and our thoughts and prayers are with the family."
The Coast Guard identified the pilot as 55-year-old Bill Kinsinger of Oklahoma City.
Air crews will continue searching for the aircraft through the night, the Coast Guard said, though they haven't been able to locate any signs of the plane.
It's unclear if any animals were aboard the plane when it crashed or if anyone was on the flight aside from the pilot. A Facebook page for a husky in Texas indicated the plane was flying to Texas in order to pick up the dog for veterinary treatment.
Anchors Up Rescue Group, a Las Vegas-based dog rescue, said in a press release a volunteer pilot offered to fly from Oklahoma City to Texas to pick up the husky, named Masaru, and return with him to Oklahoma. There, a veterinary technician would be waiting to bring the dog to the group in Las Vegas for treatment.
The estimated time of arrival was one hour, Anchors Up Rescue Group said, but it began to get longer roughly 20 minutes before the plane was supposed to land. The rescue was then notified the plane was no longer on radar, and contact with the pilot was lost.
NORAD launched the two fighter jets after the plane was unresponsive, and their pilots attempted to make contact with the pilot of the Cirrus SR22. They were unsuccessful.
The fighter jets from Ellington Field were relieved by two others from New Orleans.
NORAD and U.S. Northern Command notified Mexican authorities, as well as the State Department and the Coast Guard, of the small plane. The agency continued tracking it, but visibility was ultimately lost.