A privately-owned Cessna aircraft was intercepted by two fighter jets yesterday entering the same Los Angeles airspace as Marine One while the helicopter was ferrying President Barack Obama.
After the small plane landed at Long Beach Airport, police then discovered it contained about 40 pounds of marijuana, a law enforcement official said.
The Secret Service said President Obama was never in any danger, despite the emergency procedure to remove the unauthorized aircraft from “restricted airspace”.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said it scrambled two F-16 fighters from March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County, California, to intercept a Cessna 182 over Los Angeles at 2:30 p.m. local time.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Virginia Kice said the department’s Homeland Security Investigations unit questioned the pilot, who has been turned over to Long Beach police and remains in custody.
The pilot will now face local prosecution, Virginia Kice said.
NORAD spokesman Michael Kucharek declined to disclose how close the Cessna came to Marine One.
The Federal Aviation Administration had notified pilots that there was an eight-mile radius around Los Angeles International Airport that was off-limits to air traffic yesterday.
It was that radius that the Cessna violated, spokesman Brie Sachse said.
Brie Sachse declined to release the Cessna’s tail number, saying the agency does not identify planes involved in security incidents.
After a short wait at LAX, Barack Obama took off aboard Air Force One to San Francisco – the flight was delayed by the appearance of the Cessna.
Barack Obama made it safely to San Francisco, where he was travelling to three fundraisers.
When he landed he met Jodi Fisher, a 44-year-old cancer patient who recently made headlines by handing out free ice cream in her hometown, which was on her “bucket list”.
Meeting Barack Obama was also on the list, so White House staff arranged for her to greet him at San Francisco airport.
Air Force One is the name for any U.S. Air Force aircraft which is carrying the President.