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Feds say at least 12 aircraft violated restrictions during Trump’s Florida visit

By ELIOT KLEINBERG
The Palm Beach Post

February 20. 2017 8:36PM


WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — At least 12 aircraft violated temporary flight restrictions through Monday afternoon for President Donald Trump’s Palm Beach Mar-a-Lago stay, with at least five of those having the unique experience of being buzzed by military aircraft, federal officials confirmed to The Palm Beach Post.

Eight of those crossed the line on Friday alone, with three of those having what likely were unsettling encounters with F-15 jets and one with a military helicopter, according to the Federal Aviation Administration and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).

NORAD said F-15s from Homestead Air National Guard Base intercepted small planes at about 4, 5 and 7 p.m. Friday and at noon Sunday, and a military helicopter encountered an aircraft around 6 p.m. Friday.

In Friday’s 7 p.m. encounter, two F-15s needed less than 14 minutes to fly the estimated 75 miles from Homestead, south of Miami. The encounter “required the Air Force F-15s to travel at supersonic speeds, a sound noticed by area residents,” NORAD said in a release.

The FAA said Monday the registration numbers — the “tail numbers” — of the planes and the identities of the pilots won’t be released while it investigates each violation. Those will take weeks or even months.

“The FAA will investigate each incident and will take appropriate enforcement action. The FAA also will continue to conduct outreach to educate local pilots about the restrictions,” the agency said in a statement.

Neither Marsh nor the FAA said Monday if any violations, or intercepts, took place the first two weekends.

In Sunday’s incident, the pilot didn’t have radio communication until the jets got close. The Air Force pilots then told it to leave the restricted area, Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Chuck Marsh, a NORAD spokesman, told The Post.

“The pilot was very cooperative” and left immediately, Marsh said Sunday.

Not having radios tuned in is the cause of most temporary flight-restriction violations, Marsh said Monday from NORAD’s headquarters in Colorado.

“Air traffic control says, ’Hey, we can’t reach this guy,’” he said.

Marsh said the arrival of a military jet going more than 700 mph, and bristling with armaments, usually is enough to the get the flier’s attention and prompt him to establish radio contact.

“If I was a pilot up there and I saw that come up around me, I would definitely try to find out what’s going on,” he said.

According to the FAA’s Aeronautical Information Manual, NOTAMS — “notice to airmen” advisories — “will contain specific and formatted information. The facility establishing a temporary flight restrictions area will format a NOTAM beginning with the phrase “FLIGHT RESTRICTIONS.”

NORAD, a joint U.S.-Canadian agency, was created at the height of the Cold War to conduct aerospace and maritime warning and control for North America.

Trump was visiting Mar-a-Lago for the third consecutive weekend.

By edict of the U.S. Secret Service, any time the president is in town, a package of flight restrictions is in place. They effectively shut down the Lantana airport and impose strict limits at other Palm Beach County airports that include requiring small plane pilots be cleared by authorities at other airports before they fly in. Aviation businesses at PBIA and the county’s three general aviation airports say Trump’s past two weekend stays at Mar-a-Lago have cost them about $250,000 in business, and some of their customers, worried about continued Trump visits, already are fleeing to other airports.


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