At least four people are feared dead following the incident in which the aircraft had been said to be carrying a family during the flight which took off from Spain and had been scheduled to land in Cologne in Germany. The NATO jets had been sent to intercept the plane after it began to fly erratically, with the military pilots claiming they could not see anyone in the cockpit of the aircraft when they approached.
Speaking of the situation, a statement by the Latvian Civil Aviation Authority said: “The aircraft was flying from Spain to Cologne, but during the flight, the aircraft changed its flight route.
“Air traffic controllers were unable to communicate with the aircraft’s crew.”
Flight tracking app Flightradar 24 showed the aircraft – a Cessna 551 – had taken off from the city of Jerez la Frontera around lunchtime.
At around 5:30pm, the aircraft was said to show signs of losing altitude and speed.
German newspaper Bild said the plane had reported cabin pressure problems after take-off and contact was lost after it had cleared the Iberian peninsula.
NATO jets from several countries took off to evaluate the aircraft following the alert being raised.
Rescue teams from Sweden and Lithuania arrived on the scene where the plane crashed after final reports suggested the plane came down near the city of Ventspils.
Reports suggest the aircraft finally ran out of fuel, and until now, nobody has been found at the scene of the crash.
Any chances of finding survivors following the incident have been described as “minimal”.
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Sweden’s search and rescue operation leader Lars Antonsson said: “We have no explanation at all, we can only speculate” about what happened, but they [the people on board] were clearly incapacitated on board”.
Debris from the plane, as well as an oil slick, have been spotted where the aircraft came down following a spiralling during its final stages.
Latvian and Swedish rescue and coast guard vessels are patrolling the crash site and a nearby passenger ferry was alerted to help in the efforts.
A Lithuanian air force spokesperson said that a Lithuanian air force helicopter was also dispatched for search and rescue at neighbouring Latvia’s request.
Sources added the fighter aircraft were from the NATO Baltic Air Police mission in Amari airfield in Estonia.
The mission in the airbase currently consists of four Eurofighter jets of the German Air Force, according to NATO.
The spokesperson did not say how many jets there were or comment further.
The Cessna 551 is a popular twin jet small aircraft.
A crew of two can carry up to eight passengers at just under 500mph for a range of around 2,3000 miles.
The type was first flown in 1978 and ceased production in 2006, with over 1,100 examples of the aircraft produced.
Aside from a role in civilian aviation, various military forces worldwide also deploy the type.
Nations including Spain, Sweden and the US have several examples of aircraft within their military aviation fleets.
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