Two US Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons
US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Matthew Lotz
NORAD scrambled 2 fighter jets after an aircraft flew too close to President Joe Biden’s vacation spot.
The jets fired flares near the civilian pilot to get their attention.
The NORAD fighters ultimately helped escort the plane out of the Lake Tahoe area.
North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) fighter jets intercepted a civilian aircraft that wandered into the airspace near Lake Tahoe, where President Joe Biden and Jill Biden are vacationing, on Friday.
The crews of two F-16s fired flares to catch the civilian pilot’s attention and escorted it out of the temporarily restricted airspace without an incident, North American Aerospace Defense Command said in a statement.
A Coast Guard helicopter helped with the intercept, which happened Friday morning West Coast time. No information about the civilian aircraft or its pilot was released.
Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said on X, the site formerly known as Twitter, that the incursion was “not of protective interest” and had no impact on Secret Service operations.
White House principal deputy press secretary Olivia Dalton added there also was no impact on the president.
Biden is due to fly back to Washington on Saturday after a week of vacation with his family in California’s Lake Tahoe region.
It’s the second time in just a few months that NORAD, a bilateral command tasked with defending the US and Canada, has had to scramble fighters to intercept a civilian plane that entered restricted airspace within the US.
In June, a NORAD jet intercepted a civilian plane that flew over Washington, DC, and later crashed in Virginia, causing a loud boom heard in the area.
F-16 intercepts of civilian aircraft that venture too close to where the president is are not uncommon.
For instance, NORAD sortied F-16 fighter aircraft to intercept a Cessna, popping flares in the process, after it entered the temporary restricted airspace while Biden was delivering a speech in California last October. Another similar intercept occurred over New York City a year earlier after the president delivered a speech at the UN general assembly.
“These [intrusions] happen rather frequently, though they don’t always get to this level of control,” a NORAD spokesperson told Task & Purpose after the 2022 intercept, referring to using flares to get the pilot’s attention.
Similar intercepts were also seen during the previous administration, such as when a non-responsive aircraft flew near a presidential rally in Arizona in 2020, forcing the intercepting F-16s to fire flares after attempts to radio the pilot were unsuccessful, or when aircraft flew close to the former president’s golf courses in earlier incidents.
After the incident in DC, White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said that “there are Noble Eagle-like incidents that happen from time to time where private aircraft wander into secure airspace, and we have to notify them to leave,” referring to NORAD’s Noble Eagle airspace protection and control mission.
“And 99 times out of 100, that’s all it takes, is a quick call on the radio,” he said, but every now and then it requires a higher-level response.