In a moment that froze some witnesses on the ground, Air Force fighter jets intercepted a Cessna aircraft above the George Washington Bridge and escorted it away from restricted air space during the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly in Manhattan on Tuesday.
The Cessna 182 is owned by the United States Military Academy at West Point and was being flown by an Army instructor pilot, the academy said in a statement.
The instructor was conducting a "civil and mechanical engineering" flight lab for cadets when the aircraft "briefly violated" a Temporary Flight Restriction Area near the George Washington Bridge around 2 p.m., an academy spokesperson said.
President Joe Biden had just addressed the UN General Assembly and was scheduled to return to Washington, D.C. about 15 minutes later, authorities said.
"It was pretty dramatic, because this comes obviously a few weeks after the 20th anniversary of 9/11, and occurred over the George Washington Bridge along the Hudson River in plain view of New Yorkers," Newsweek Editor-at-Large Naveed Jamali said.
The West Point Civil & Mechanical Engineering (CME) department operates two Cessna 182 fixed-wing aircraft as part of the Aeronautical Engineering curriculum, the academy says. The flight lab program, launched more than 50 years ago, "gives cadets the opportunity to reinforce classroom material through lab procedures."
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," a West Point spokesperson told Military Times.
That would be New York Stewart International Airport, 15 or so miles northwest of the military academy.
James McCabe was at Hudson Terrace and Charlotte Place in Englewood Cliffs when he captured video of a fighter jet (below).
Fred Munoz of Cliffside Park got a clear shot of the F-16, as well (above).
Footage posted on Twitter showed it later doing loops over northern Manhattan (below).
“Very low, very loud turns from what looked like an #f16 #nyc to fast for my camera…got some sound!” one Twitter user tweeted. “Set off a lot of car alarms, not normal.”
A temporary flight restriction for VIP movement in New York airspace was in effect from Monday at 4:45 p.m. until Tuesday at 3:45 p.m., 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."
DID YOU capture video or photos or the F-16 jet? Text to (201) 943-2794 or email: email@example.com.******
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