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NEW: Military jets to fly as low as 3,500 feet over county today


Military jets will fly over Palm Beach County this morning, some of them just 3,500 feet off the ground, in training related to their patrols when President Donald Trump spends the weekend in Palm Beach, authorities said Tuesday.

The “Falcon Hawk 18” exercise is set for 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, said a release from Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida’s Panhandle. Tyndall coordinates for the North American Aerospace Defense Command for the continental United States.

The exercise “shouldn’t rattle any windows,” Tyndall spokesman Maj. Andrew Scott said Tuesday, but “it has a potential to be seen and heard, which is why we did the advisory; to ensure that the public knew about it.”

Scott said it’s “not likely” any planes will go fast enough to generate a sonic boom.

NORAD and its partners train often in areas where they might be needed, he said.

He also said the training event is a reminder that the president plans to be at Mar-a-Lago this weekend, and pilots who plan to be in the area should check the NOTAM — “notice to airmen” — that the Federal Aviation Administration issues every time there’s a presidential flight restriction.

When the president visits his winter White House, all air operations, with a few exceptions, are prohibited within the 10-mile inner circle ring centered on Palm Beach International Airport. Certain operations are allowed in the outer ring extending 30 miles from the airport.

Through Jan. 15, 73 aviators had slipped into the restricted air space during Trump’s various stays as president. Many just crossed the imaginary line, were alerted and promptly moved back out. But on Jan. 13-15, in three of the eight violations, the military sent fighter jets to intercept pilots after they didn’t respond to radio calls from air controllers.

Wednesday’s exercise, in which planes will will be unarmed, is “designed to hone NORAD’s intercept and identification operations through a series of Air National Guard F-15 and Civil Air Patrol C-182 aircraft training flights.” It said some aircraft could be at 3,500 feet. Military and commercial jets usually cruise at 30,000 to 45,000 feet , or about 5½ to 8½ miles above sea level.

The F-15 is a twin-engine fighter capable of flying at more than 1,900 mph, or 2½ times the speed of sound. A C-182 is a modified single-engine Cessna small propeller plane.

Scott would not say how many jets will take part or from where they’ll come, citing security concerns. He did say the most likely sightings will be in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

If weather’s bad, the exercise will be Thursday, the release said.



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