Fighter jets scramble after plane crosses D.C. airspace [Updated]

A Cessna Citation crashed in southwest Virginia shortly after F-16s pursued it.
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A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon of the Ohio Air National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing flies over Iowa Aug. 11, 2022. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Tylon Chapman) A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon of the Ohio Air National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing flies over Iowa Aug. 11, 2022. (Airman 1st Class Tylon Chapman/U.S. Air National Guard)

Fighter jets took off to intercept a plane that flew through Washington, D.C. airspace this afternoon, causing a sonic boom heard throughout the nearby area.

F-16s based out of Joint Base Andrews took off just after 3 p.m. Eastern Time today. The North American Aerospace Defense Command confirmed to Task & Purpose that it scrambled F-16s after a Cessna 560 Citation V flew Washington, D.C., and northern Virginia. The jets reached the Cessna at 3:20 p.m. Eastern Time. Repeated attempts to hail the pilot, including the use of flares, were unsuccessful. Eventually the plane crashed.

Reuters reported that the military jets not responsible for the crash. 

The Federal Aviation Administration earlier confirmed that a Cessna Citation crashed in Virginia while flying on a northeastern route from Tennessee, but did not mention any military planes going after it.

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“A Cessna Citation crashed into mountainous terrain in a sparsely populated area of southwest Virginia around 3 p.m. local time on June 4,” the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement. “The aircraft took off from Elizabethton Municipal Airport in Elizabethton, Tenn., and was bound for Long Island MacArthur Airport in New York.”

The supersonic flight caused a loud sonic boom that was heard throughout the greater Washington, D.C. area, with residents in Maryland and Virginia reporting hearing it. 

Before the FAA’s statement, the Annapolis Office of Emergency Management confirmed that the loud noise heard around the greater Washington, D.C. area was “caused by an authorized DOD flight. This flight caused a sonic boom.” D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management also issued a brief statement saying that there was “no threat” at the time, following the noise.

The National Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation, working with the FAA. 

The FAA and NTSB will investigate. The NTSB will be in charge of the investigation and provide all further updates.

This is a developing story. 

Update: 6/4/2023: This story has been updated with information from NORAD.

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