A small business jet bound for Fort Lauderdale airport crashed on Friday evening, more than 480km off the Florida coast after air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane.

The pilot is believed to have been the only person on board, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Air traffic controllers were unable to communicate with the plane for more than an hour.

US fighter jets were then sent to investigate why controllers had lost communication with the Cessna plane.

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Around 4.50pm, the Florida Air National Guard sent two F-15 jets to investigate the plane, which was not on its flight path.

As the jets approached the Cessna Citation V, it began "rapidly descending and subsequently crashed" around 6pm.

The fighter jets did not fire upon the Cessna, said Maj. Mark R. Lazane, a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

The pilot's name has not been released.