LOS ANGELES – A small private plane carrying a load of marijuana strayed into President Barack Obama’s no-fly zone over Los Angeles Thursday and was forced to land at Long Beach Airport after being intercepted by U.S. Air Force jet fighters, authorities said.
The four-seat Cessna entered the restricted airspace about 11 a.m. as the president was flying from Orange County to Los Angeles aboard Marine One, a military helicopter provided for his use. Federal officials said the aircraft was never close enough to endanger Obama.
Air traffic controllers tried repeatedly to contact the single-engine Cessna, authorities said, but the pilot, apparently flying under visual flight rules, did not respond. The plane was quickly intercepted by two F-16 fighters from March Air Reserve Base.
After the Cessna touched down, federal agents and Long Beach police detained the pilot for questioning and found what law enforcement officials described as a large amount of marijuana onboard the aircraft. News reports indicated the load weighed at least 7 pounds.
The pilot was taken into custody by Long Beach police, but his identity and other details were not released.
Aircraft typically are prohibited from flying within 10 miles of any plane or helicopter carrying the president. The required separation for small private planes is about 30 miles.
After his morning fundraisers, Obama departed from Los Angeles International Airport about 2:45 p.m. and flew to San Francisco. White House officials declined to comment on the airspace violation.