WASHINGTON—U.S. military officials say a small, single-engine plane crashed near Muncie, Indiana, after operating erratically. The pilot may have had a health problem or was suffering from a lack of oxygen, they said.
Military officials do not believe it is terrorism-related, said a spokesman for U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command. Instead, Michael Kucharek said the pilot may have blacked out due to a condition known as hypoxia.
The plane crashed in a swampy area on a farm near Muncie, officials said, adding that the pilot was the only person on the plane. Kucharek said the pilot took off from a small airport near Grand Rapids, Mich., and was at an altitude of about 23,000 feet and descending slowly. He said the plane was heading south-southeast and had been speeding up and slowing down to dangerous speeds. Law enforcement was on the scene.
According to Kucharek, the plane was a single-engine propeller M20M Mooney, and it had about four hours of fuel left when officials noticed the problems. Military aircraft were launched to check the plane.
In 1999, a charter jet crash killed pro golfer Payne Stewart and four others, flew halfway across the country on autopilot before crashing in a pasture in South Dakota. Everyone on board had apparently lost consciousness for lack of oxygen after a loss of cabin pressure, and the plane crashed after it ran out of fuel, investigators said.