A pipeline patrol pilot going about his business found himself on the wrong end of an F-16 and 30 drawn guns Thursday after accidentally overflying President Bush's motorcade in Philadelphia.
"It cannot have helped matters that the notam establishing the temporary flight restriction (TFR) was not issued until late the night before, or that the effective time was extended that very morning," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Here was a businessman conducting a legitimate flight and he didn't get the word."
After interrogating the unnamed pilot, the Secret Service released him, concluding he posed no threat. "He had no idea the president was in Philadelphia or that he was near a motorcade route. He meant no ill will, malice or threat at all," Secret Service spokesman James Borasi told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
According to the Inquirer, air traffic controllers from Philadelphia International Airport tried unsuccessfully to contact the pilot as he approached the motorcade route. An F-16 and two police helicopters gave chase and forced the pilot to land at Camden County Airport, where 30 law enforcement officers with weapons drawn were waiting.
He was handcuffed and turned over to Secret Service agents. He was released about two and a half hours after the incident and allowed to fly home to Ohio. No criminal charges were filed, although there is no word yet on any FAA enforcement action.
"What we have here is a failure to communicate," said Boyer. "The FAA waited so long to get the word out about the TFR that it was bound to cause problems."