F-16 Fighting Falcon News

F-16s intercept private plane over Washington

November 11, 2003 (by Lieven Dewitte) - A small civilian plane violated restricted air space around Washington on Monday around 11:15 a.m., causing a brief security alert at the White House before military jets intercepted it and steered it away.
The plane, a single-engine, four-seat Mooney, probably ventured into the restricted area by accident. It was identified immediately after violating the outer restricted area.

NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) scrambled two F-16 fighter jets from Andrews Air Force Base in suburban Maryland who escorted the plane out of the prohibited zone.

There are two flight security rings around Washington that were imposed after the Sept. 11, 2001, hijack attacks on New York and Washington.

The first permits small aircraft to fly within 23 miles of the capital if the pilot has prior approval from air traffic controllers and if the aircraft is equipped with updated electronic identification equipment.

The second zone prohibits any aircraft from within a 17-mile radius of downtown Washington unless it is a scheduled airline service or a military, law enforcement or pre-approved medical flight.

Flight restrictions around Washington, which ban general aviation operations at Washington's Ronald Reagan National Airport, have had a severe effect on several regional airports and small aviation businesses.

The outer ring has been violated more than 600 times since it was imposed last February and the inside restriction has been breached far less often, the FAA said.