WASHINGTON — The pilot of a small plane that penetrated the no-fly zone around Kennedy Space Center shortly before the space shuttle’s launch Tuesday disappeared after being forced to land, Air Force officials said.
The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating, the officials said Thursday.
The civilian Piper Cub had gotten within 20 miles of the launch site just three minutes before Discovery’s liftoff before being intercepted by two Air Force F-16s.
That means the small plane had penetrated half of the 40-mile temporary no-fly radius set up by the FAA.
The fighters were flying security patrol and deployed three flares to get the pilot’s attention, the officials said.
The fighters escorted the plane to an airport about 50 miles north of Kennedy Space Center, they said.
When law enforcement officers got to the airport, the aircraft was on the ground, but the pilot was gone, the officials said.