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NORAD Fighters Respond to Unresponsive Aircraft

  • Published
  • By NORAD
  • Public Affairs
Two F-15 fighter jets and a KC-135 air refueling tanker, under the direction of North American Aerospace Defense Command, intercepted an unresponsive, single-engine private aircraft near Fresno, California, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015, at approximately 7 p.m. PDT.

The Federal Aviation Administration and NORAD conducted multiple attempts to gain communications with the pilot of the Lancair Evolution, but were unsuccessful. Upon visual inspection, the pilot of the aircraft appeared to be unresponsive and made no changes to airspeed or altitude.

"We will use every appropriate resource available to assist citizens in distress and defend our homeland," said Maj. Gen. Tommy Williams, mobilization assistant to the Commander, Continental U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command Region - 1st Air Force (Air Forces Northern), Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida.

The civilian aircraft departed Phoenix-Deer Valley Municipal Airport, Arizona, Thursday evening en route to Hesperia, California, and went out of communication with air traffic controllers shortly thereafter.

The KC-135 and a U.S. Coast Guard HC-130 remained with the unresponsive aircraft until it crashed into the Pacific Ocean approximately 430 nautical miles northwest of San Francisco.

"Although this mission did not have the advantageous outcome we always hope for, we are constantly on the watch defending our skies and protecting general aviation freedoms," said Williams.  "Our thoughts are with the families affected by this incident."

The intent of military intercepts is to have the identified aircraft re-establish communications with local Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controllers and instruct the pilot to follow air traffic controllers to land safely for further follow-on action.

NORAD is the bi-national Canadian and American command that provides maritime warning, aerospace warning and aerospace control for Canada and the United States. The command has three subordinate regional headquarters: the Alaskan NORAD Region at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska; the Canadian NORAD Region at Canadian Forces Base Winnipeg, Manitoba; and the Continental NORAD Region at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.