...Incursion Flight Is Dissected...

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There has been speculation in the mainstream media as to how the 150 got so close to the White House (less, some say much less, than three miles). The answer is that it was allowed to. Apparently those who could have blown it out of the sky much earlier decided to give the pilots every opportunity to return to earth in the conventional way. The plane crossed into the Air Defense Identification Zone at 11:28 a.m., 46 minutes before it reached the closest point to the White House. The first intercepting aircraft, a Customs Service Blackhawk helicopter (presumably armed) and a Cessna Citation, were scrambled at 11:47. Two National Guard F-16s, which joined the hunt at 11:57 a.m., each made a flare pass in front of the 150. Some time was also spent trying to establish communication. It wasn't until 12:14 p.m. that the Cessna changed course. "Perhaps it dawned on them, finally, this is no good, I've got to change something," said Lt. Col Tim Lehmann, who was flying one of the F-16s.

According to an Associated Press story, Lehmann said he didn't consider the 150 a major threat. But he also said he would have fired a missile if ordered to do so. Of course, there were the inevitable unnamed sources claiming that authorities were "really close" to shooting the 1,400-pound airplane down and there were those who think that's what should have happened. On a Fox News program, commentator John Loftus told host Linda Vester that pilots violating the ADIZ should be shot down, no questions asked. So far, more than 700 such violations have occurred and the body count would be more than 1,000 (including Kentucky's governor) with Loftus pulling the trigger. AOPA's Boyer fired off a letter to Fox accusing Loftus of fear-mongering. "We can only be thankful that calm, informed professionals are watching over our security," said Boyer.