(RNN) - A twin-engine airplane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico about three hours after Federal Aviation Administration officials lost contact with the aircraft.
Two F-15 fighter jets were scrambled to observe the airplane after the FAA lost contact with the lone pilot about 9 a.m. ET on Thursday. NORAD says the jet pilots reported seeing the windows fogged up.
That implies the airplane may have lost cabin pressure.
The pilot was identified by friends as Dr. Peter Hertzak, a gynecologist and cosmetic surgeon from Slidell, LA, according to the AP.
CNN reported Hertzak was unresponsive and may have been suffering from a lack of oxygen as he circled the Gulf. The plane was observed at an altitude of 28,000 feet off the coast of the Florida Panhandle.
The Jacksonville FAA Center last saw the plane around 12:03 p.m. ET at an altitude of 9,600 feet, moving at 93 mph, according to FlightAware.com. Just a minute before, the Jacksonville FAA had tracked the plane at an altitude of 11,400 feet.
It has since dropped off the radar and the transponder has stopped working.
The Coast Guard dispatched an HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircrew out of Mobile, AL, an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and crews from the Coast Guard Air Station in Clearwater, FL and the Coast Guard Cutter Coho to assist the plane.
The airplane crashed around 12:15 a.m. The nose of the plane is submerged, according to the Coast Guard. There is no word on the pilot's condition.
The plane took off from Slidell headed to Sarasota, FL. If the plane was fully loaded with fuel, it would have run out of gas by about 12:30 p.m. ET.
The plane, a Cessna 421, is a twin-engine propeller plane that seats eight. It is registered to Lee H. Aviation, Inc.
On April 3, a pilot and two passengers disappeared in their Cessna over the Pacific while they were searching for a boat fishing illegally about 500 miles off the coast of the Philippines. The search for the men was called off two days later.
In 1999, professional golfer Payne Stewart was killed while his Lear jet was flying to Dallas from Orlando, FL. F-16 Falcons were scrambled from Elgin Air Force Base in Florida when Stewart became unresponsive.
Pilots noticed that the cockpit windows had frost or condensation.
The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the plane lost cabin pressure and those on board died of hypoxia. The plane crashed in a field in Mina, SD.
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