F-16 fighter jets intercepted planes in restricted airspace during Biden’s Southern California visit

The president chats with workers
President Biden chats with workers during his visit to a Metro subway construction site in Los Angeles on Oct. 13.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Two small planes were intercepted by F-16 fighter jets on two separate occasions after entering temporary restricted airspaces last week during President Biden’s visit to Southern California, authorities said.

The breaches by the single-engine planes happened when Biden was attending events in Los Angeles and Orange counties, according to a news release from the Continental United States North American Aerospace Defense Command Region, or CONR, which oversees airspace surveillance and control and directs air sovereignty activities for the lower 48 states.

The first breach occurred Oct. 13 over Los Angeles, shortly before Biden spoke at the site of the new Metro D Line extension in West L.A. alongside mayoral candidate and Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles). At around 12:40 p.m., two F-16s, under the direction of CONR, intercepted a Beechcraft Bonanza that entered the temporary flight restricted area without proper clearance or communication. The plane landed safely, CONR said.

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The second breach occurred on Friday, when a Cessna 182 entered a temporary restricted airspace over Santa Ana at 3:10 p.m. without the proper clearances or communication, CONR said. Biden was attending an event at Irvine Valley College, where he and Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine) spoke about Democrats’ efforts to lower the cost of prescription drugs, when the violation occurred.

According to CONR, officials used flares to catch the pilot’s attention, and the plane landed safely. Flares are a standard tool to bring pilots into communication, the agency said.

The Secret Service was aware of both breaches and neither disrupted the president’s schedule, an agency spokesperson said. Violations of the temporary flight restrictions are common, particularly by small planes, the spokesperson said.

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Temporary flight restrictions are routine procedure based on the president’s schedule and location, the Secret Service said.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, temporary flight restrictions can be used during natural disasters such as wildfires and hurricanes, certain major sporting events and emergency or national security situations.