The supersonic planes were dispatched to intercept a no-fly zone violator FILE PHOTO: A US Air Force F-16 fighter jet, 2023. © Manjunath Kiran / AFP

The US Air Force F-16 fighter jets were scrambled on Sunday to intercept a rogue private aircraft that flew over Washington, DC and crashed into mountains in Virginia.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said in a statement that the jets took off to intercept a small Cessna Citation V aircraft, which had violated the special no-fly zone set up after the 9/11 terrorist attacks over the government quarter, which includes the White House and US Capitol.

The warplanes were authorized to travel at supersonic speeds and produced a loud sonic boom that was heard by the city’s residents.

According to NORAD, the F-16s used flares to draw the attention of the rogue plane, but its pilot had remained “unresponsive.” The Cessna eventually crashed near the George Washington National Forest, the military said. The White House told reporters that President Joe Biden had been notified about the incident.

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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said that the Cessna took off from Elizabethton Municipal Airport in Elizabethton, Tennessee and was heading for Long Island MacArthur Airport in New York. It added that the private jet crashed into mountains in a sparsely populated area.

According to media reports, the Cessna was registered to Florida-based company Encore Motors. Encore owner John Rumpel told the Washington Post over the phone that his “entire family” was on board, including his daughter, a grandchild and her nanny.

Several news organizations cited people familiar with the investigation as saying that four people were inside the Cessna. It is unclear if there are any survivors. (RT)