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Pilot says he invaded Obama's airspace by mistake

May 12, 2012 |  7:56 am

President Barack Obama returns a salute as he steps off the Marine One helicopter prior to boarding Air Force One at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles.

The pilot who violated President Obama's airspace Friday in Los Angeles told authorities he did so by mistake.

Two F-16 military fighter jets intercepted a general aviation airplane and guided it to El Monte Airport.

Law enforcement sources told The Times that Secret Service agents interviewed the pilot there and he insisted he invaded the airspace inadvertently. The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported that he was released by authorities.

PHOTOS: President Obama's Studio City fundraising event

Obama had arrived at LAX by helicopter after an early morning basketball game in Cheviot Hills, then left LAX on Air Force One at 9:53 a.m. Large parts of L.A.'s airspace were under flight restrictions because of the president's trip.

In February, a small-plane pilot who strayed into Obama’s airspace was also intercepted. Long Beach police officials said “a large amount of marijuana” was found on that plane. Two F-16 fighter jets intercepted the Cessna 182 after air traffic controllers tried to contact the pilot.

The pilot did not respond and eventually landed -– with escorts -- at Long Beach Airport. Authorities have told The Times that as much as 10 kilograms of marijuana aboard the plane was seized.

Despite concerns about traffic nightmares and possible protests, Obama's fundraiser at the home of actor George Clooney in Studio City went off without a hitch.

People, some cheering, lined the route of Obama's motorcade near Clooney's home. Some noted the president's announcement this week that he supported gay marriage.

Inside, Obama addressed the issue in his remarks at the fundraiser.

"Obviously, yesterday we made some news," he said to applause. "But the truth is it was a logical extension of what America is supposed to be. It grew directly out of this difference in visions. Are we a country that includes everybody and gives everybody a shot and treats everybody fairly, and is that going to make us stronger? Are we welcoming to immigrants? Are we welcoming to people who aren't like us -- does that make us stronger? I believe it does. So that's what's at stake."

Even in the celebrity-laden neighborhood, a presidential motorcade rolling down the street was something special.

About 200 people gathered at Fryman Canyon Road and Iredell Street to cheer as Obama glided past in a long line of black SUVs, California Highway Patrol motorcycles and other vehicles. The problem was figuring out which one the president was in.


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-- Richard Winton

Photo: President Obama steps off Marine One at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday morning before boarding Air Force One to leave L.A. Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Los Angeles Times