Pilot of plane in VA crash lost contact with air traffic control minutes after takeoff: feds

The pilot of a plane that slammed into a mountain in rural Virginia lost contact with air traffic control during its ascent, according to federal aviation officials.

Federal aviation officials report that only minutes into the doomed flight that ended in a remote Virginia Mountain the pilot of the business jet failed to respond to air traffic control orders. The situation was reported to a system that included military, law enforcement and security agencies.

The jet, which had taken off from Tennessee, continued to its destination of Long Island despite being out-of-contact on its ascent. It then turned back to Virginia, where it crashed into a mountain and killed the four people on board.

Two of the victims were identified by family and friends as a real estate entrepreneur well-known in New York and her 2-year old daughter.


Aviation experts outside the United States continued to speculate the pilot lost consciousness due to a lack oxygen in the cabin when the plane climbed over 10,000 feet. This is the altitude at which pressurization of the cabin is usually required.

Alan Diehl is an aviation psychologist and former employee of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the National Transportation Safety Board, and the U.S. Air Force. Air Force. Diehl was also involved in the design of the Cessna Citation that crashed into Virginia.

Uncertain is the exact moment when the pilot stopped communicating with air traffic controllers. According to the FAA, their last attempt to contact him was 15 minutes after takeoff.

Diehl stated that the plane could have reached 10,000 feet within a matter of minutes. The pilot might have needed to wait a while after takeoff for clearance for higher altitudes.

Diehl explained that depending on the altitude of the jet, as well as its age and condition, the pilot may have had only a few minutes, or less, to react when his brain began to lose oxygen.

Diehl stated that “the one thing they can’t probably eliminate at this time is some sort of medical problem.”

Heart attacks, brain aneurysms and antihistamines can impair a pilot’s abilities to fly and identify that there could be a problem in the cabin with oxygen levels or pressurization.

Three U.S. officials reported Monday that the fighter jet pilots who intercepted the business jet reported its pilot appearing slumped and unresponsive. Three U.S. officials said Monday that the official had been briefed and was speaking under condition of anonymity as they were not authorized by the military to disclose details about the operation.

Authorities close the entrance to Mine Bank Trail. This is an access point for the rescue operation on the Blue Ridge Parkway, where a Cessna Citation crashed in mountainous terrain near Montebello. The pilot of the plane, who had lost contact with air traffic controllers shortly after takeoff is believed to have become unconscious during ascent.

The military scrambled fighter jets after the plane flew in an erratic manner, turning over Long Island and flying directly over the capital. The sonic blast was heard in Washington, Maryland, and Virginia.

Investigators had to walk for several hours on Monday in order to reach the crash site, which is located 60 miles south of Charlottesville. They plan to stay on the scene at least for three to four days.

Diehl, an aviation psychologist, explained that investigators will often dig deep into the background of a pilot after a crash. Did he or her have military training to recognize signs of low cabin pressure? Was he or she a risk-taker? What was the result of their last flight medical?

Investigators will review recordings of the last communications between the pilot and air traffic control. They will check for changes in speech patterns such as slower speaking, which could indicate low oxygen levels. Diehl says that testing oxygen levels in human tissue and blood is unlikely due to the impact of the crash.

Adam Gerhardt, NTSB investigator, said at a Monday briefing that the wreckage was “highly fragmented”. He added that investigators would examine the most sensitive evidence on the scene, and then move the wreckage, possibly by helicopter to Delaware where it could be examined further. The plane’s flight data recorder was not known. In 10 days, a preliminary report will be published.

Virginia State Police has confirmed that human remains will be taken to the state medical examiner for identification and autopsy. The victims were reported to include the pilot, three passengers and the crew. No survivors were found.

The plane left Elizabethton Municipal Airport, Tennessee, at 1:13 p.m. on Sunday and headed to MacArthur Airport, Long Island, New York. Air Traffic Control lost contact with the plane during its ascent.

The NTSB reported that preliminary information indicated the last attempt to communicate with the aircraft was around 1:28 pm, at which time the plane was flying at 31,000 feet. Around eight minutes after the FAA’s report, it was reported to the Domestic Events Network. This network includes the military, homeland security, national security and other law-enforcement agencies.

According to the NTSB, the plane began descending at 3:23 pm and crashed nine minutes later. According to the NTSB, at 2:33 pm, the plane was at 34,000 feet (about 10,363 kilometers) when it flew above MacArthur Airport.

The plane flew over the capital of the United States. Pentagon officials said that six F-16 fighters had been deployed to intercept the aircraft, including two jets from Maryland, two jets from New Jersey, and two jets from South Carolina.


The plane registered to Encore Motors of Melbourne Inc. in Florida crashed. John Rumpel, the pilot and owner of the company, said that his family was returning home to Long Island after visiting him in North Carolina.

In an interview with Newsday and the New York Times, Rumpel named his daughter Adina Azarian and granddaughter Aria, aged 2 years, as the two victims.

Azarian, 49 was a well-known real estate agent in New York. She was described by her friends and family as an entrepreneur with a fierce competitive streak who had started her own brokerage while raising her daughter alone.

Tara Brivic Looper, an Azarian-adjacent friend and close family member, said that being a mother was her passion. “That they (were) together at the end is fitting.”

Azarian, according to friends, moved to East Hampton to raise Aria full-time with a nanny. She made frequent trips home to bring Aria and her nanny together with the extended family.

Andrew Azarian, her cousin, remembered that “she seemed so happy there.” Both of their lives had not even begun.


How could this have happened? He continued. “Nobody can explain it.”

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