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Sun, Jan 03, 2010

Suspicious Cessna Gets F-15 Escort In Florida

Jets Summoned When Pilot Refused To Comply With ATC

Jean-Claude Courtois took off from BKV Thursday in his newly-purchased Cessna Conquest 425 only to be escorted back down by two F-15s less than an hour later.  The French-speaking pilot refused to respond to ATC, causing enough concern that the jets were dispatched to encourage him to land.

According to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office, the CFI at American Aviation at Hernando County Airport (BKV) that gave Courtois a check-ride on his new Conquest suggested he get more training and improve his English skills prior to flying.  When a translator explained the comments to Courtois, he reportedly became indignant and proceeded to take off without obtaining clearance.

The CFI contacted Tampa FAA and was redirected to Tampa Airport Approach to voice his concerns about the flight.  When Courtois did not respond to requests from ATC, NORAD sent two F-15s from Homestead AFB to intercept the aircraft and force it to land immediately.

Capt. Sharbe Clark of NORAD said Courtois complied with the requests of the F-15 pilots.  "Once the jets got up there, they requested that he land and he did", Clark said. "We're not really sure what happened, why he didn't respond."

Courtois landed at Everglades Jet Park in Collier County about an hour after takeoff where he was questioned and released.  The sheriff's office says he won't face criminal charges.

The incident was "blown out of proportion," Hernando County Airport Director Don Silvernell told the Tampa Tribune.  "It was his plane and he left with it."

FMI: www.FAA.gov, www.NORAD.mil

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