Fighter jets fire flares, escort plane from airspace near Trump event in Arizona
PHOENIX – U.S. fighter jets escorted a plane flying in restricted airspace near President Donald Trump’s rally in Bullhead City, Arizona, on Wednesday in an overhead event that briefly distracted the president and the crowd.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command tweeted that it sent two F-16s to investigate “a general aviation aircraft that was not in communication” with air-traffic controllers as it neared Bullhead City.
“The violating aircraft was non-responsive to initial intercept procedures, but established radio communications after NORAD aircraft deployed signal flares,” the agency noted. “The aircraft was escorted out of the restricted area by the NORAD aircraft without further incident.”
NORAD declined to say where the aircraft came from, but Luke Air Force Base said it was not involved in the incident. A spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration referred the matter back to NORAD.
As many in the crowd saw the flares and air traffic nearby, Trump joked about the military craft trying to impress him.
“Wow. That plane is about four days old. We have all brand new equipment, F-35s, everything. We’re the envy of the world,” he said to cheers. “You know what? We are the envy — do you know about that, Dan? Look at that sucker. He’s trying to show off to the president. Yeah, that’s one of ours.”
As the crowd remained fixated on the overhead action, Trump again riffed on the maneuvers and said Democrats had opposed the hardware that had gained their attention.
“I love that sound. You don’t know what I went through to get those suckers up there. I had to get that money from the Democrats,” he said.
As one of the warning flares became visible, Trump directed the crowd to the skies.
“Look at that! Look look look. Oh, look at that. They gave the president a little display,” he said as the crowd began chanting, “USA! USA!”
“How about that? How about that? I wonder if the fake news caught that,” Trump continued. “I love it. You don’t know how hard it is to get Democrats to pay for that stuff.”
Trump suggested Democrats had opposed funding for equipment such as the F-35 fighter jet, which has a major presence at Luke. But it was the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who, as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was one of the biggest critics of that aircraft.
S: USA TODAY