[Updated: 2:57pm EST] The downed airplane that had been found upright and floating in the water about 120 miles off the coast has now sunk with no trace of the pilot while a Coast Guard airplane watched. Coast Guard officials said the plane landed "softly" but later sunk. The search has now been called off. -----------------------
According to the FAA, it lost contact with an airplane about 133 miles off the southwest coast of Saint Petersburg Florida after its pilot was unresponsive. The pilot is a doctor from Slidell.
The plane departed Slidell, Louisiana and was bound for Sarasota and was a Cessna 421.
North American Aerospace Defense Command spokesman John Cornelio said the NORAD dispatched F-15 fighter jets jets and made visual contact at 8:45 a.m. and found it at 28,000 feet with ice covered windows doing a spiral downward slowly. Repeated attempts by the F-15's to reach the pilot by radio failed as did visual flight maneuvers. The F-15 pilots were not able to get a clear visual of the pilot and could only see a figure in the cockpit that was not moving.
The airplane's transponder signal was lost at 12:20pm, which is when officials believe the plane crashed into the water.
The Coast Guard is currently searching the area for any signs of life or wreckage.
The Cessna 421 is a twin engine small airplane meant for personal use and has a pressurized cabin. The military said they are unsure if the plane lost pressurization or if there was another problem and that normally if a plane looses pressurization the pilot declares an emergency and descends to a lower elevation.