NORAD Fighter Jets Follow Unresponsive Plane Over Atlantic

Two F-15s are following the single-engine aircraft that departed from Rochester, New York.
12:48 | 09/05/14

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Transcript for NORAD Fighter Jets Follow Unresponsive Plane Over Atlantic
A possible ghost plane flying over the Atlantic right now the air forcing that they did not hear a word from the crew on board this plane. So they scrambled two F fifteen fighter jets that now been following it for quite awhile. This plane though is now over -- over Cuba. Over when I'm down Cutler in New York I air ABC's -- Martinez is sending by the Pentagon's latest on this Lou what do we know about this situation. Dan -- -- going -- for awhile now US fighter jets picking up this aircraft as it flew over the Atlantic Ocean after it became unresponsive and do not have contact. With US aviation authorities. IDF fifteen cent to up to intercept the aircraft over the Atlantic followed eight as far as he could. Think Cuba once the aircraft entered Cuban airspace then they broke up but now -- the plan is is that this aircraft can make it -- -- way. South to today -- southern coast of Cuba. Then US fighters will pick it up again in international airspace so what is it that we knew about the size of the -- knew anything about the of the amount of people on board. -- what we know is that this is a general aviation aircraft -- -- -- caught a 700 tedium. Which means -- seat turboprop aircraft this plane was flying from Rochester New York. Headed -- Naples Florida somewhere over North Carolina it veered to the east and flew over the Atlantic Ocean that's where fighters picked it up. We know that there are other passengers aboard this aircraft but we don't know precisely how many. It is a small turboprop aircraft what we do know is that the -- that the plane's pilot has been spotted slumped over the aircraft controls. By those fighter pilot. And those fighter pilots were able to obviously get close enough to -- quite -- to see that is there -- that description that these fighter pilots were able to attitude to make out as they've been trailing -- When they were trailing the -- what they found was that. That is -- they had Q visual cues that everyone aboard may be unconscious the first thing was that the pilot was slumped over the plane's controls. The second thing they saw was that the windows where the passengers may have been where -- over that leads in the suspect that this is -- a case of hypoxia. Which is -- medical term used to describe -- and -- of oxygen. To the brain because of altitude. And at that point eight -- you don't recover. I'm so bad as what to the that thinking is right now is that everyone aboard is unit temporarily unconscious or me and in this -- This is a situation -- very similar to golfer Payne Stewart correct and. That is the most famous episode of one of the and -- aircraft. Situations. That claim has essentially followed until it ran out of fuel and crash. We we are told here that this situation me. And up similarly. We just last week we had another to similar episode it's unclear whether this aircraft crash -- Cuban territory or over international waters. Louis tomorrow -- think they're -- Kaczur is so much that information that we want to bring on this but the latest right now is that there is -- on responsive client has been heading from Rochester New York it was in route. Down to Naples Florida is now. Enter Cuban air spray air space. It was being trailed by two F fifteen fighter jets that were scrambled once that plane. Was being determined as being on response from the pilot on board as -- it was just mentioning there. Once those fighter pilots got a visual of that plane they had noticed that the pilot was slumped over the controls. And it there was fog or that there were some kind of ice build up money in -- of those windows. And as -- had pointed out there could be -- an indication that pox yet. May have taken place in this flight which is -- lack of oxygen where that might happen anywhere between twelve to 151000 feet. This is coming from the FAA web site and a description about this very type of situation. It can be at that altitude of twelve to 151000 feet where it can affect judgment memory alertness consciousness. Coordination. -- any kind of drowsiness or dizziness may be experienced. From all of this the effects appear. A -- an increasing short periods of exposure to an increase of altitude. Now at this point again as those fighter jets have had to trail off because this jet did enter Cuban air space. We are not certain exactly what the altitude is a specific location of that jet but as we -- flight aware this is the latest information that we have been able to track. From this flight that was deemed -- responsive that was -- from Rochester New York headed down to Naples Florida I want to bring back in Louis Martinez. If he is available in just one moment they're about this -- responsive. Flight that we have been following that we've gotten a notice of shortly this afternoon earlier this afternoon. When it was leaving from Rochester New York earlier this morning. Making -- making its way down to Florida and at this point at last report. That flight is still taking place the plane is still in the air although -- you can see from this flight aware map. It is answered over the airspace over Cuba and is where those fighter jets. Had to peel off from making -- visual contact. With that flight. No word yet that we have on whether Cuba's air force has been scrambled to follow the flight. Waiting to get more information about that and of course ABC's -- Martinez -- at the Pentagon standing by with more information from this. Both the FAA being made aware of this and of course the State Department being made aware of this as well -- want to bring him back in what do we have the latest information. Well -- -- latest information we're getting from military officials is that the aircraft is still flying. However those F fifteen fighters that were expected to fly around -- and pick it up on the south side. Have now returned to base so it's unclear does not appear right now that American fighters are gonna pick up this aircraft's. And once it crosses -- is -- -- southern coast. And it's unclear -- those fighters are going to return to pick up. But the trailer of the aircraft -- returning to international. Airspace and waters so for now that plane continues flying. South of Cuba do we know at this -- -- any response from from Cuba. We know that US aviation and excuse -- US and -- aviation authorities have been convened in constant communication. Since -- -- began we understand that the FAA contacted the State Department to reach out to Cuban authorities -- -- it's it's a delicate situation because United States really does not have. Diplomatic relations with Cuba so now we have a common mission in. And Cuban interest section in Havana. And presumably that is how they contacted. -- in the Cuban government. But close coordination is so that you have American military aircraft. Inbound to Cuba making them aware that they are there on for -- peaceful purpose two make sure that. This aircraft. Into two companies are cut to find out what is going to happen to it Silva very. Very -- -- circumstance here between two countries that don't normally cooperate very well at each other. And Louis you have to forgive me at a going to be Pritchard putting you on the spot in this because I know this is a very fluid situations I know the details might not exactly be there. Do we know the number of people that were on board obviously the pilot which those fighter pilots are described as being slumped over the controls. The number of passengers do we now. I don't have that level of detailed and the officials -- -- speaking with state -- they aren't aware that there are other passengers onboard the aircraft. But the only visual -- they have confirmed right now anyone aboard is that of that of the pilot slumped over his controls. -- and I'm I'm sure that the FAA's contacting. The airport -- this aircraft took off from which is in Rochester but you gotta remember that private aircraft don't. Typically advise how many passengers are -- -- -- -- college or less -- a little looser restrictions about flight manifests. When these aircraft take -- on private flights. And we're just getting more information about the specific type of plane that says this is the TBM 900 to private turboprop. And Steve began -- -- one of our consultants here at ABC -- in at the range of a plane like this may be close to 18100 nautical miles if tanks were fully topped off. On and that's obviously a consideration that the US military the State Department would be considering as far as whether they would be pursuing any kind of search on the southern side of Cuba correct. That is correct -- and and it's also we've gotten indications that. Obviously this they've made calculations as to how far our projections as to how far this aircraft could go as it headed towards Cuba. And early indications I got. Where that they did not expect it didn't reach the southern coast obviously it is continuing. To fly so it has -- exceeded those expectations. Now of good of course and they might be looking at the projections based on whether had a full tank which or may be -- the projected flight path. Of love for the original -- -- for this aircraft which was from Rochester New York. To Naples. So the but that's where there -- looking -- there were trying to calculate precisely how much air have flight time this aircraft might have. And have so far it seems to -- exceeded their determinations. And one of the things -- about this that when a private plane is taking up from one airport it does have to register as its flight -- but as far as checking in from tower to tower as it is crossing over different air spaces. What is the protocol for that well the -- -- and -- as it's like any civilian aircraft. When you fly commercial aircraft across the country. Europe you might make you listen into the cockpit and there at the handover that takes place once the second the second the plane is airborne. As -- from the tower -- control center from region to region until it gets to its destination. You might be able here that some of the sound systems and so many large commercial aircraft. You can hear the same process happens with the general aviation aircraft private aircraft as they fly the obvious -- -- -- -- very crowded skies. And every one every aircraft is track. But the military also attracts. Aircraft that is to have an office NORAD does. -- it wouldn't this is why nor has involved. We -- four protection. In the united states air space. And -- -- have a situation like this where any contact is lost in other words what happened here. We're told -- military officials is that. That expected handover from one region to another did not occur in meanwhile the aircraft is still being tracked by radar. Make -- what we know that the aircraft is flying. But -- it's unresponsive at that point NORAD gets involved they send up a scramble fighters. To intercept the aircraft to make sure they understand what is going on. Incidents -- been other episodes where this has happened where you find out that the communications aboard the cockpit may have gone down. And then -- hand signals. Communications are re established between the fighters and their bases so that they can communicate what's happening to general aviation aircraft if they spot in the cockpit that need pilot is unconscious. Then they have a general idea. That this is not going to end well. And of course you're just joining us now right now -- the there is -- -- response of aircraft that was heading from about Rochester New York -- to Naples Florida. It is now approaching Cuban airspace and -- as you put it out there. Those fighter jets had to -- away from tracking this flight because it is added that restricted airspace. Is there any idea yet -- we heard from the State Department -- how -- they might be mailed to make a decision on whether or not they will try to re route and go to the southern side of the of the country. -- the original plan was for the F fifteen fighters to go around Easter into Cuba and pick up the trail once again once the aircraft had -- gone south. Cuban airspace. It appears that it -- crossed. The Cuban. Land the -- The Connecticut Maine what I thought god -- -- island of Cuba it appears it is gone past the island of Cuba. Anaconda continued to fly over international airspace but the American fighters -- and pick it up again on the south side. Haven't broken off and they have returned to their home base now whose gonna pick up the trail of this aircraft that remains unclear. ABC's Lumet has standing by the Pentagon of course we'll continue to update the story right here and -- we thank you for that appreciate it. You can keep up today with the latest on this story by downloading ABC news -- and star in the source for exclusive updates on the go. -- down Cutler -- New York.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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