A small plane that entered airspace closed for President Joe Biden’s visit to Anchorage on Monday was intercepted by a NORAD F-16 fighter jet that dispensed flares to get the pilot’s attention, military officials said.
The plane, reported by Anchorage residents as a Piper PA-18 Super Cub, entered closed airspace over the Anchorage Bowl about 11:50 a.m., said Staff Sgt. Michael Pfeiffer, acting as a spokesman for NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command. The jet escorted it to a nearby airport, the statement said.
A second F-16 was also in the area providing support, said Capt. Alexandra Hejduk, a NORAD spokesperson.
The airport where the Super Cub landed wasn’t named, and many details about the incident remained unclear late Monday. Military officials and others didn’t immediately respond to additional questions about what happened.
“During this event, the fighter aircraft dispensed flares — that may have been visible to the public — to gain attention from the pilot,” Pfeiffer wrote in a statement. “Flares were employed with the highest regard for safety of the intercepted aircraft and people on the ground.”
One or more fighter jets were seen and heard by people all over the city while Biden arrived at JBER and spoke on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The president stopped in Alaska while returning from a trip to Asia.
Shawn Miller was at work in Midtown Anchorage around lunchtime when he saw a Super Cub being “orbited” by an F-16, he said. The plane looked like it was traveling toward West Anchorage over Midtown, he said. Miller said the Super Cub appeared to have large tundra tires
No information was immediately available about the pilot.
Pilots are expected to be aware of Federal Aviation Administration-issued Temporary Flight Restrictions, like the one issued from 11:15 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. on Monday in Anchorage.
F-16 fighter jets have in the past been scrambled to escort private planes that stray into airspace closed when high-level government officials are in town. In August, two F-16s set off flares to alert a civilian plane near Lake Tahoe that it had entered restricted airspace near where Biden and his wife were on vacation.
Biden led a memorial service on base Monday, calling for unity and speaking directly to service members in the audience at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. Air Force One left Alaska on Monday afternoon without incident.
Correction: An earlier version of this story mischaracterized the way flares are used by NORAD jets intercepting aircraft. The F-16s dispense flares to get the attention of pilots but don’t fire them at other planes.