Video shows F-16 fighter jet dropping flares above Anchorage Hillside during Biden visit

The video shows the F-16 trying to intercept a small plane that had entered closed airspace and continued toward Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

A citizen video of a fighter jet that intercepted a small airplane that entered restricted airspace during Monday’s Alaska visit by President Joe Biden shows the plane flying steadily deeper into the no-fly zone as the F-16 dropped flares over the Anchorage Hillside to get the pilot’s attention.

Just before noon on Monday, a single-engine plane later identified by the North American Aerospace Defense Command as a Piper Super Cub flew into an area that had been restricted to air traffic for security reasons during Biden’s visit. At the time, Biden and other government officials were attending a 9/11 memorial on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

NORAD said two F-16s were dispatched from Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks to intercept the small plane, with one fighter flying maneuvers meant to catch the pilot’s attention and the other in the area providing support.

[Earlier coverage: F-16 fighter jet escorts small plane that entered closed airspace during Biden’s Anchorage visit]

The video shows the movements of one of the F-16s, which were seen and heard by many Anchorage residents as they flew over the city.

The video, made by photographer Joe Connolly from a vantage point high on the Hillside and shared with the Daily News, shows the fighter jet first dropping a flare into a residential area ahead of the path of a small plane. The small plane appeared to be flying north, parallel to the Chugach Mountains. After the flare was fired, the small plane continued on its track north. A plume of smoke was visible on the ground.

The jet then circled back over the city and dropped a second flare into a forested East Anchorage area before flying north toward Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. Another plume of smoke could be seen after that flare was dropped.

NORAD said the small plane eventually landed at an area airport, but did not say where. A Super Cub was seen landing at Lake Hood in the same timeframe and was met by police. The FAA said it is investigating the incident.


Connolly said he called the Anchorage Fire Department because he saw smoke from the flare coming from the ground. The Anchorage Fire Department did not immediately respond to questions about whether firefighters were called to investigate.

[Alaska pilots who stray into closed airspace face sanctions, jet escorts]

Flares are used in plane interceptions to get the pilot’s attention, according to a NORAD spokesperson. F-16s will first use other tactics to attempt to get a pilot to heed radio communications to get out of a restricted air zone, NORAD said.

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Michelle Theriault Boots

Michelle Theriault Boots is a longtime reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. She focuses on in-depth stories about the intersection of public policy and Alaskans' lives. Before joining the ADN in 2012, she worked at daily newspapers up and down the West Coast and earned a master's degree from the University of Oregon.