Two F-16 fighter jets intercepted a private plane on Sunday afternoon that was flying in air space prohibited during the president’s visits to Mar-a-Lago.
According to a spokesman for NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, the fighter jets from Homestead Air Reserve Base were already patrolling nearby airspace when they were alerted that a small private plane had violated airspace restrictions.
The plane was about 29 miles north of Mar-a-Lago when the intercept occured at 4:24 p.m. Residents in northern Palm Beach County and Martin County reported hearing the fighter jets’ loud engines flying overhead.
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The pilot of the private plane was unaware of the airspace restriction, a NORAD spokesman said. The fighter jets escorted the small plane to the North Palm Beach County General Aviation Airport. The FAA will determine if the pilot should be fined.
Of the dozens of violations during the president’s 10 visits to Palm Beach County, at least six violators were intercepted by military aircraft. The intercept on Sunday was the only intercept by fighter jets during the president’s holiday visit.
The FAA issues advisories called TFRs - temporary flight restriction - to pilots several days before a presidential visit laying out airspace restrictions and warning them to check back often for changes. The advisory for the president’s current trip ends at 5 p.m. today.
When the president visits Mar-a-Lago 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.
At least 27 aviators violated flight restriction zones during the first three weekends President Donald Trump was at his Palm Beach Mar-a-Lago estate after his inauguration in January 2017, according to the FAA.
The FAA’s breakdown of violations for the first three stays: 10 violations on Feb. 3-5, three on Feb. 10-12, and 14 on Feb. 17-20, the long Presidents Day weekend.
“Previous TFRs in this region have resulted in numerous airspace violations,” the FAA alert states. “We need your help in getting the word out: Please pass this information along to as many pilots and aviation professionals as possible.”
The Homestead Air Reserve Base Base where the intercept fighter jets are located, is about 25 miles south of Miami. It is a fully combat-ready unit capable of providing F-16C multi-purpose fighter aircraft, along with mission ready pilots and support personnel, for short-notice worldwide deployment.