F-16s scrambled after plane enters restricted airspace over Washington

April 6

Two F-16 fighter jets briefly intercepted a small plane Sunday that was flying in restricted airspace over Washington without communicating with air-traffic controllers, the Air Force said, adding that the pilot apparently had no hostile intentions.

The two jets were scrambled from Joint Base Andrews about 12:30 p.m. when the plane, a Cessna, was detected over Washington and its pilot did not immediately respond to air-traffic controllers, said Canadian Army Capt. Jennifer Stadnyk, a spokeswoman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), in Colorado.

When the F-16s arrived, the Cessna’s pilot already had diverted out of restricted airspace and soon began talking with air-traffic controllers, Stadnyk said.

The pilot, whose identity was not made public, apparently was flying over the nation’s capital “without realizing that he was somewhere where he shouldn’t be,” Stadnyk said. She said she did not know whether the plane was forced to land.

NORAD’s involvement ended when the plane left restricted airspace, and any follow-up investigation would be done by the Federal Aviation Administration, Stadnyk said.

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