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Mon, Jun 25, 2007

Another Restricted Airspace Incursion Under Investigation

President Was Visiting Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant

You know your day isn't going to end up well when you notice two F-22 fighter jets are following your Piper PA28.

Ah, airspace incursion. An unhappy event for those who fail to heed TFRs. The most recent incursion, Thursday, occurred during President Bush's visit to the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant, reported Alabama's Times-Daily.

According to Major April D. Cunningham, deputy media chief for current operations for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the incident occurred about 1 pm when the Piper strayed into a temporary, flight-restricted area near Browns Ferry.

The aircraft was intercepted by a pair of NORAD F-22 fighter jets and was diverted out of the restricted air space.

FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said the aircraft departed from the Courtland Airfield in Lawrence County and landed at the Northwest Alabama Regional Airport.

"We will do an investigation to determine whether there actually was a violation of airspace," said Bergen.

Depending on the outcome, pilots can be subject to civil FAA penalties, including a suspension or revocation of their pilot's certificate.

The plane is listed to Wings of Eagles Inc., of Florence, according to FAA records.

Major Cunningham said another recent incident involving a Cessna T-303 was more unusual in that the pilot did not respond to the fighters' signals to leave the restricted airspace. That plane eventually landed at an airport in Bessemer.

Violations of TFRs Not Unusual

Cunningham said violations of temporary flight restrictions are not unusual, while FAA's Bergen said most are inadvertent.

Although Ed Borden, chairman of the Northwest Alabama Regional Airport board, did not have any details about the incident involving the plane that landed in Muscle Shoals, he did, however, notice fighter planes overhead while he was playing golf in Colbert County on Thursday. (File graphic of type shown below.)

"There was a plane," he said. "I looked down at my watch and said I sure hope the president is gone and out of the airspace by now."

Cunningham said the F-22s were already in the air and were diverted to northwest Alabama when the incidents occurred.

Borden said the Temporary Flight Restriction Area included airports and airfields in Muscle Shoals, Courtland, Decatur, and Huntsville.

"If they had one that got into that airspace, they will get them down, and they don't play with you at all," Borden said.



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