The pilot of the small twin-engine plane that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of North Carolina after being clipped by an Air Force jet fighter was lost in a storm and off course when he wandered into military air space, according to unofficial transcripts of conversations between the pilot and the air traffic controller.
According to the transcripts obtained by a Norfolk television station, the federal air traffic controller warned the pilot that he was being trailed by Air Force jets just four minutes before one of them clipped the small Beechcraft Baron, causing the plane to crash.
The pilot, Virginia lawyer Henry H. Tiffany, and his six passengers died in the accident. No bodies were recovered after the Jan. 9 crash. The Air Force pilot and crewman were unharmed.
The following is the transcript as reported by WTKR-TV, which obtained the tape:
At 4:42 p.m., the Beechcraft said, "Yea, we were coming up AR3 and we hit pretty good cells thunderstorms . We just deviated around them."
FAA controller: "Okay, Sir, you've got some F4s right on your tail. I just want you to be aware of that. Is there any way at all that you can proceed . . . ah . . . direct New Bern (N.C.), perhaps direct Norfolk . . . ?"
Beechcraft: "Affirmative. We're going direct New Bern right now, aren't we?"
FAA: "Well, I don't know. I asked you before if you were going direct Norfolk and you said, 'Yes. OK.' "
Beechcraft: "That's about direct Norfolk, about five degrees off or something." Pause. "Ah . . . we're fading to the right. Ah . . . we've deviated. Yea, we can go direct New Bern now. Looks like the cells out here are lightening up. Just a little bit. The rain seems to be ending, turning to light rain right now. You say you want us to go direct New Bern?"
FAA: " . . . Ah, yes, sir. Head toward New Bern and I'll give you vectors to Norfolk. But head toward New Bern."
The last transmission from the Beechcraft was unintelligible, the FAA transcript says.