F-16s intercepted a Grumman Tiger that violated last weekend’s Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) involving President Biden’s visit to his home in Wilmington, Delaware. According to a Secret Service statement, “On May 16, at approximately 1:09 p.m., a small aircraft violated the restricted airspace in Wilmington, DE. Per standard protocol, U.S. military aircraft responded, the aircraft was intercepted, and the pilot redirected to a local airport.”
The Grumman pilot told Jon Martin, director of aviation at New Garden Airport in Pennsylvania where he landed, that he and his wife were returning home to an unspecified New York airport from Ocean City, Maryland, and were unaware of the TFR. Martin said both were “shaken up,” adding, “not only were they intercepted by F-16s, but they thought they were being shot at [by the flares].”
A Defense Department spokesman confirmed, “The NORAD fighter dispensed signal flares during the intercept in an effort to gain the pilot’s attention and direct them safely out of the restricted zone.” Martin said that the pilot was later interviewed by the Secret Service and flew the Tiger home from New Garden the next day.
Martin said this was the first aircraft since Biden’s inauguration to be intercepted and then land at N57, though he said the FAA told him there have been between four and seven interceptions every weekend there is a TFR, and that most land at nearby Chester County Airport. Martin expressed frustration over the presidential TFRs, which effectively shut down the airport. He shares some of the same frustrations experienced by New Jersey and Florida airport operators during weekend presidential TFRs involving the last administration.