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Cessna Intercepted In Temporary No-Fly Zone Over GWB Was Piloted By West Point Instructor

2016 photo
2016 photo Photo Credit: Dean of the Academic Board-West Point

UPDATE: A single-engine plane that drew a pair of Air Force fighter jets when it inadvertently strayed into temporarily restricted airspace over the GWB during the UN General Assembly was being flown by an Army instructor pilot from West Point.

The soldier was conducting a "civil and mechanical engineering" flight lab for cadets, an academy spokesperson said, when the aircraft "briefly violated" a Temporary Flight Restriction Area around 2 p.m., following President Joe Biden's address to the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly.

The West Point Civil & Mechanical Engineering (CME) department operates two Cessna 182 fixed-wing aircraft as part of its Aeronautical Engineering curriculum, according to Brigadier General Shane Reeves, Dean of the Academic Board at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. 

The flight lab program, launched more than 50 years ago, "gives cadets the opportunity to reinforce classroom material through lab procedures," Reeves wrote in a 2016 social media post.

"The cadets in the program take an in depth look at the engineering aspect of flight, how the aircraft works, and why," the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association reported earlier this year. "Cadets develop hypotheses, make test plans, and take measurements in flight."

F-16C Vipers from the 187th Fighter Wing of the Alabama Air National Guard -- the famous "Red Tails" -- had been on patrol for the General Assembly on Tuesday and immediately intercepted the Cessna. 

“Once they realized they had violated the airspace, they immediately left the area and returned to the airport," Lt. Col. Beth Smith of West Point told Military Times.

That would be New York Stewart International Airport, 15 or so miles northwest of the military academy.

(NOTE: For those interested, the Army Golden Knights face the Air Force Falcons in the traditional Commander's Classic at Globe Life Field in Arlington, TX, on Nov. 6.)

A temporary flight restriction for VIP movement in New York airspace was in effect from 4:45 p.m. Monday until 3:45 p.m. Tuesday, according to North American Aerospace Defense Command and the FAA.

"NORAD closely coordinates air defense activities with the FAA and responds as required," the command tweeted. "Temporary Flight Restriction area violations such as this one occur from time to time and are a normal part of NORAD operations."

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