Raleigh Approach Control was talking to an incoming aircraft, 09H, that was having growing communication problems. The aircraft had gone from being able to communicate on the radio to only being able to acknowledge receiving communications by pressing the ident button on their transponder.
Cloud bases were variable in the Wake Forest area during our patrol but were at a maximum of 2,200 feet. We had a solid cloud layer over us when the communications with 09H were first heard.
At approximately 1545 ATC requested a cloud base report in the area near Triangle North Executive Airport, (LHZ). We departed our patrol and training area and headed for LHZ to assist. It took us approximately two minutes to arrive in the area.
During this time the communication situation with the aircraft diminished and altitude reports from the aircraft were inconsistent as if the aircraft was gaining and losing altitude. ATC was longer able to receive any response via the transponder from 09H.
The aircraft vanished from radar coverage as well which alarmed ATC since they could not tell if the aircraft had crashed.
At 1548 we spotted the aircraft in the air, followed it in, and gave ATC updates on the aircraft status. The aircraft made a safe landing in the grass next to runway 5 at LHZ. We observed the aircraft come to a safe stop and notified ATC.
PIC – Steve Rhode
TFO – Ian Moffatte