A doctor volunteering for a dog rescue operation who did not land his small plane at an airport in near Austin as planned and was later tracked by fighter jets flying over the Gulf of Mexico appeared unresponsive and may have been suffering from hypoxia, officials said Thursday.
The Coast Guard identified the pilot of the Cirrus SR22T as Dr. Bill Kinsinger. He took off from Wiley Post Airport in Oklahoma City Wednesday afternoon, bound for Georgetown, Texas, 25 miles north of Austin. But he never made it.
FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford said the plane kept flying and was last observed on radar 219 miles northwest of Cancun, Mexico, flying at 15,000 feet.
Coast Guard spokeswoman Lexie Preston in said Thursday that Coast Guard aircraft are searching for the plane near Yucatan Peninsula.
After Kinsinger stopped responding to air traffic controllers, NORAD launched two F-16 jets Houston and made contact with the plane. The fighters flew in front of the five-seater plane and performed military maneuvers in an effort to gain the pilot’s attention, but Kinsinger, the only occupant appeared to be unresponsive.
The F-16s became low on fuel and were replaced by two F-15 fighter jets. F-15s stayed with the plane for a short while but later returned to base because the proximity to Mexican air space.
The Guard, which was relying on the FlightAware website to track the aircraft, lost track of the plane when it stopped transmitting a signal.
According to NORAD, Kinsinger appeared to be suffering from hypoxia, a condition which the brain is deprived of adequate oxygen. The condition can cause confusion, nausea, breathlessness and hallucinations. If left untreated, it can be fatal.
Per FAA regulations, a civil aircraft pilot flying alone must use supplemental oxygen if flying for longer than 30 minutes above 12,500 feet, and for an entire flight if flying above 14,000 feet.