WASHINGTON - National Transportation Safety Board investigators expect to be on the scene of a deadly Virginia plane crash for the next several days looking for answers as to why the aircraft flew off course over the nation's capital prompting F-16 fighter jets to scramble causing a sonic boom.
Officials say the investigation will look at when the pilot became unresponsive and why the aircraft flew the path that it did.
Investigators will also consider several factors that are routinely examined in such probes including the plane, its engines, weather conditions, pilot qualifications and maintenance records.
According to the NTSB, the Cessna Citation took off from Elizabethton Municipal Airport in Tennessee at 1:13 p.m. Sunday, headed for MacArthur Airport in Long Island, N.Y. Air Traffic Control lost communication with the airplane during its ascent.
Preliminary information indicates the last ATC communication attempt with the airplane was at approximately 1:28 p.m., when the plane was at 31,000 feet (9,449 meters).
The plane climbed to 34,000 feet (10,363 kilometers), where it remained for the rest of the flight until 3:23 p.m. when it began to descend and crashed about nine minutes later. The plane was flying at 34,000 feet (10,363 kilometers), when it flew over MacArthur Airport at 2:33 p.m., the NTSB said.
The New York-bound plane took an erratic flight path — inexplicably, turning around over Long Island to fly straight over Washington, D.C. — which prompted the military to scramble fighter jets. This caused a sonic boom heard in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. It crash a short time later in a remote part of Virginia.
Remote terrain around the crash site posed major challenges to the investigation. It took investigators several hours to hike into the rural area near the community of Montebello, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) southwest of Charlottesville.
The Virginia State Police issued a statement saying that because of the severity of the crash, human remains will be transported to the state medical examiner's office for autopsy and identification.
The Federal Aviation Administration said that the victims included the pilot and three passengers but didn't release their names. There were no survivors.
The plane's owner told news outlets that his daughter and 2-year-old granddaughter were aboard.
The pilot of a business jet that flew over Washington and crashed in a remote part of Virginia appeared to be slumped over and unresponsive, three U.S. officials said Monday, recounting
According to observations by fighter pilots who intercepted the wayward flight, the pilot of the plane appeared to be slumped over and unresponsive. The officials who said that the fighter pilots saw the civilian pilot slumped over had been briefed on the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details of the military operation.
A loss of oxygen is a leading theory for why an unresponsive business jet flew off course.
The Associated Press contributed to this article