Investigators are looking into whether hypoxia played a role in the Sunday crash of a Long Island, N.Y.-bound plane, according to a report.
The investigation involves determining if hypoxia — which is characterized by low oxygen in a person’s blood — was to blame for the Cessna Citation’s pilot and passengers being unresponsive before the small aircraft went down in a mountainous region of Virginia, a source told CNN.
Four died when the plane crashed near Montebello, Va., the Federal Aviation Administration said. Officials said they found no survivors near the crash site in the Shenandoah Valley.
The plane was traveling from Tennessee’s Elizabethton Municipal Airport to MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma and had reached Long Island when it allegedly turned around and flew back into a restricted airspace over Washington, D.C.
The pilot didn’t respond when air traffic controllers attempted to contact him 15 minutes after taking off, according to the FAA. The agency says hypoxia symptoms “increase in severity” once the altitude is above 10,000 feet.
“By far the most likely suspect is some sort of a pressurization issue,” safety science professor William Waldock told the Associated Press.
“It went up to 34,000 feet and basically stayed there — all the way up, all the way back. The turn (away from New York and back south) is a little perplexing. But it kind of depends on what kind of autopilot system the aircraft had.”
Six F-16 fighter jets attempted to intercept the unresponsive plane. A pair of U.S. officials told the AP that fighter jets reported the Cessna pilot appeared to be slumped over in the cockpit.
With News Wire Services