Small plane with unresponsive pilot crashes into Gulf of Mexico
A Cessna 421, similar to the one pictured, reportedly circled the Gulf of Mexico for hours before crashing.
April 19th, 2012
12:08 PM ET

Small plane with unresponsive pilot crashes into Gulf of Mexico

[Updated at 2:16 p.m. ET]  A small plane with an unresponsive pilot crashed in the central Gulf of Mexico on Thursday after circling above the ocean for more than two hours, but it appeared intact after hitting the water, the U.S. Coast Guard reported.

The tail of the twin-engine Cessna 421 remained sticking out of the Gulf about 120 miles west of Tampa, Florida, after it went down at 12:08 p.m. ET, said Chief Petty Officer John Edwards, a Coast Guard spokesman. The crew of a Coast Guard search-and-rescue plane watched as the Cessna made what appeared to be a soft landing, Edwards said.

A Coast Guard helicopter and the cutter Coho were expected to reach the site Thursday afternoon, he said.

The plane took off from Slidell, Louisiana, en route to Sarasota, Florida, with a single pilot on board, and had been circling at an altitude of about 28,000 feet, a Federal Aviation Administration source told CNN. The Air Force began monitoring the plane after noticing it flying erratically over the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday morning, and planes sent up to investigate it reported the Cessna's windows were either iced or fogged over, Edwards said.

Mike Maddox, a manager at the Slidell airfield where the plane took off, confirmed there was a situation with a plane and said family members had been notified, but he had no further comment.

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Filed under: Air travel • Military • U.S. Coast Guard
soundoff (99 Responses)
  1. someone jumped

    with something

    April 19, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Kenny

    Hope there is only one person and he uses the parachute.

    April 19, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • martin

      its a cessna, you cannot jump out of a cessane, the windows are like 10 inches by 10 inches. lol

      April 19, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • jamest

      martin

      its called an emergency exit door all aircraft have them.

      April 19, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  3. KG

    Sounds like a pressurization system failure with the windows iced over. Pretty much instant death for anyone on board.

    April 19, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • jmace57

      Exactly – like Payne Stewart and others

      April 19, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan In Tampa

      Pressurization system???
      This is a Cessna, they don't fly high enough to need one.

      April 19, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • DL

      Dan: The 421 is pressurized. The 411 variant isn't.

      April 19, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dane

      28000ft is a pressurized aircraft for sure

      April 19, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      Not true. 28,000 feet is lower than the peak of Everest. People have climbed to the top without supplemental oxygen. In this case, depending on what kind of shape the pilot was in, he may or may not have passed out. My money is on that he did (meaning he did not get a warning of pressure loss or didn't use his emergency O2) and that he spiraled until his gas ran out. It takes a LONG time for a pressure leak to become serious unless you have significant damage to the pressure vessel, and the USAF jets would've noticed that long before fogged windows.

      April 19, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • jamest

      true

      April 19, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  4. John

    Sounds like someone died or lost consciousness in mid-air. Their unconscious body just slouched over the steering wheel which caused the plane to circle for hours until it ran out of fuel.

    April 19, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  5. RH

    foggy windows....potent weed

    April 19, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Chris

    Why don't you tell us where it departed from and where it was going?!?! My mom was traveling from New Orleans to Tampa today!

    April 19, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Katy

      Twin engine plane, departing from Slidell, LA en route to Sarasota, FL

      April 19, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      Plane was heading to Sarasota-Bradenton

      April 19, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dick

      Be a little more resourceful and use some common sense.....smh

      April 19, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      For future reference, if they say "Cessna" it's either a business jet or a small prop plane. NOT commercial.

      April 19, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  7. RealGunOwner

    Maybe the Cartels are trying out a new remote system.

    April 19, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Name*Michael

    Not interested. I came here to read about a pilot that I hoped wild be OK, not some right-wing drivel about why we 'must' start another war we might not finish.

    April 19, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ceramicbisque

    It crashed. Why local papers in Pensacola know this, and CNN is SO SLOW to report it, SAD.

    April 19, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Chris

    Thanks Katy and David. I feel MUCH better. Have an AWESOME day!

    April 19, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. GOLEM

    Maybe the plane came out of the Bermuda Triangle and didn't HAVE a pilot.... Hmmmmmm

    April 19, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  12. larry5

    If the oxygen and/or the pressurization failed the pilot probably just went to sleep along with any passengers. Once it starts there is very little chance of stopping it. They would never know what happened. At least they never felt the crash that came soon after.

    April 19, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  13. angel611

    Cabin pressure failure.
    And in the private sector, a Cessna 421 is hardly a "small plane".
    28,000 feet seems a little high for that aircraft on that short flight.

    April 19, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Dave

    April 19, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
    Dan In Tampa

    Pressurization system???
    This is a Cessna, they don't fly high enough to need one.

    Story said that the plane was circling at 28,000 ft......you need oxygen usually at 10,000 ft and higher.....

    April 19, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  15. LouAZ

    WOW ! The comments seem to know all about everything and are longer (in total) than the brief report.

    April 19, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Angel

      Lou, I'm with you. It's kinda like being a couch quarterback, without ever playing.

      April 19, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
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