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3 planes violate airspace over Obama's home, forced to land

June 1, 2010 3:17 AM

At least three single-engine planes violated a temporarily restricted flight area apparently set up over the area this past weekend for President Barack Obama's return to Chicago, according to the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

Maj. Mike Humphreys declined to say specifically that the restricted area was being enforced for the president's visit but said that, in general, the zones are put in place for various reasons including "POTUS movements."

"It's not so unusual that these incidents occur," he said. In most cases the incursions are accidents, "but we have to be ready every time."

In the most recent incident -- which was posted on NORAD's Facebook and Twitter pages -- a Cessna 152 flew about two miles into the restricted space about 8:55 p.m. Sunday before two F-15 fighter jets and an HH-65 Dolphin Coast Guard helicopter intercepted the plane and escorted it to the Lewis University Airport in Romeoville.

In another incident Saturday morning, Humphreys said, another Cessna 152 "barely encroached" into the restricted area and was met by a Dolphin helicopter and escorted to Schaumburg Airport.

On Friday night, two F-15s escorted an RV-8 plane that had flown into the restricted area to Aurora Municipal Airport.

Humphreys referred other questions about the incidents to the Federal Aviation Administration. A spokeswoman, Elizabeth Isham Cory, said the agency would be looking into the incidents and the investigations could take days or weeks. She would not speculate on what sort of penalties, if any, the pilots would be subject to.

It's not clear if the pilots of the planes were aware of the flight restrictions.

According to the FAA Web site, the restricted area over the Chicago area went into effect on Friday at 3 p.m. Central Time and ends at 5:30 p.m. today. The zone, centered in Chicago, extends in all directions to a radius of about 35 miles. The purpose for the restricted area is labeled "Temporary flight restrictions for VIP (Very Important Person) Movement."

A separate temporary flight restricted area was in effect above Elwood, where the president is attending Memorial Day services at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery.

The Obamas arrived in Chicago on Thursday. With the exception of much of Friday, when he flew to Louisiana to view damage from the Gulf of Mexico oil leak, the president has spent much of his time in Chicago with his family. He is scheduled to leave the city tonight.

-- Andrew L. Wang

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The American Emperor

The President of the United States of America