Last Friday, in restricted airspace above Southern California, an F-16 fighter jet stopped a small aircraft near a community college where Vice President Biden had just finished speaking. The incident occurred over Santa Ana, California, when the president was attending a community college approximately 12 miles away in Irvine.
According to an Air Force press statement, the fighter jet fired flares at the Cessna pilot in order to “get his attention.” Audio from air traffic control revealed that the F-16 repeatedly notified the pilot that he had “intercepted” the armed guard jet and entered restricted area. The pilot requested that the Cessna respond to a radio call and flap its wings.
According to an unverified tweet of the exchange, the F-16 fighter pilot reportedly attempted to attract the attention of the Cessna pilot using so-called “headbutt” techniques, such as flying in front of the aircraft.
Wherever the president travels, a temporary flying restriction (TFR) is nearly always in effect.
Fighter pilots dispatched to intercept a straying aircraft will initially attempt to speak with the aircraft’s pilot. If contact cannot be established, the fighter pilot will employ “non-verbal” techniques, such as the deployment of flares and headbutts.
According to the Air Force, Mr. Biden’s speech on the economy at Irvine Valley College began at 3:08 p.m. PT, and the intercept occurred barely two minutes later.
At 3:24 p.m., the Cessna took off from Kingman, Arizona, and landed in Chino, California, according to flight data. The fixed-wing, single-engine aircraft was intercepted at an altitude of around 5,500 feet. According to FlightAware.com, the plane was inside the restricted security zone for around four minutes.
A spokeswoman for the Secret Service stated that the agency was aware of the event and that the president’s schedule remained unchanged.
During presidential journeys, violations of FAA-restricted airspace are widespread and virtually invariably the result of pilot mistake.
The Secret Service and NORAD have confirmed that a second airspace violation happened in California last week when a different plane crossed restricted airspace.
In June, President Biden and the first lady were escorted to a secure area in Rehoboth Beach after a private plane flew too close to their holiday house. Two fighter fighters were spotted by witnesses responding to the aircraft. A brief inquiry revealed that the pilot had the incorrect radio frequency selected.