CHICAGO – Myrtle Rose was taking a short flight over suburban Chicago when the 75-year-old aviation enthusiast looked out her cockpit window to see two F-16 fighter jets. She assumed the military pilots were just slowing down to get a closer look at her antique plane.
It wasn’t until she landed her 1941 Piper J-3 Cub that friends and the police told her the attention was much more serious – for straying into restricted airspace during a visit by President Barack Obama.
“There’s really no excuse for not knowing,” said Lt. Col. Mike Humphreys, a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command, which scrambled the two warplanes, a proposition that costs $9,000 an hour for each jet. “Anyone who flies an aircraft should know the restrictions.”
Rose said she was about 30 miles from O’Hare airport when the fighters appeared.
“I thought, ‘Oh, well, they’re just looking at how cute the Cub is,’ ” she said Friday.
A NORAD representative suggested Rose had no business thinking a military jet racing toward her would be in any way related to the cuteness of her plane.
“The biggest thing to keep in mind is that when F-16s come screaming up to you, they are probably trying to tell you something,” spokeswoman Stacey Knott said.
Penalties could include a fine or license suspension.