A plane on a West Point Military Academy training flight entered restricted airspace during the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday afternoon, causing a U.S. fighter jet to respond and escort the single engine aircraft away from New York City, military officials said.
The single-engine Cessna had been flying near the George Washington Bridge after President Biden had finished his U.N. speech and as he was leaving New York. Officials stress there was no threat.
They said the West Point plane had only briefly entered the restricted airspace around the city. But two officials said initial radio calls to leave the area were not immediately answered causing the fighter jet to respond to the skies of Upper Manhattan.
“NORAD fighter aircraft responded to an incident involving a small single-engine general aviation aircraft near New York City at approximately 2:00 pm,” a North American Aerospace Defense Command spokesman said. “The small single-engine general aviation landed safely at approximately 2:30 pm.”
The plane took off from and landed at Stewart Airbase in Orange County. A West Point spokesman said the plane was piloted by an Army instructor conducting a flight for a Civil and Mechanical Engineering class. “Once they realized they had violated the airspace, they immediately left the area and returned to the airport,” the spokesman said.
Federal Aviation Administration investigators were planning to interview the pilot and conduct a review of the incident. The FAA said the plane in question was a Cessna 182.
In addition to NORAD and FAA officials being alerted, federal and local law enforcement agencies helping to secure UNGA and the visiting heads of state were also notified. Residents in New York and New Jersey saw the F-16 fighter respond and posted videos and comments on social media about the incident, especially the loud noise it caused.
NORAD said incursions into restricted flight zones occur “from time to time and are a normal part of NORAD operations.” Following the 9-11 attacks, NORAD increased its air defense missions using radar, satellites and fighter jets to better identify aircraft and help secure the skies around New York — and all of North America.