In what became an unexpected joint mission Tuesday afternoon, an Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon intercepted an Army soldier-piloted Cessna that accidentally intruded upon restricted airspace during a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

The small, single-engine aircraft was operated by an Army instructor pilot operating from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, officials confirmed to Military Times. CNN first reported the Army connection of the pilot and the plane.

North American Aerospace Defense Command issued a statement confirming the interception, saying that the aircraft “violated the temporary flight restriction area over New York City and was intercepted by a NORAD F-16 fighter.” The interception occurred around 2 p.m., the statement said, adding that “violations such as this one occur from time to time and are a normal part of NORAD operations.”

West Point spokesperson Lt. Col. Beth Smith acknowledged that the Army pilot “briefly violated” the flight restrictions.

“A West Point fixed wing aircraft flown by an Army instructor pilot conducting a cadet flight lab in support of ME481, a Civil and Mechanical Engineering class, briefly violated temporarily restricted airspace this afternoon near the George Washington Bridge,” Smith told Military Times. “Once they realized they had violated the airspace, they immediately left the area and returned to the airport.”

Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army, specializing in accountability reporting, personnel issues and military justice. He joined Military Times in 2020. Davis studied history at Vanderbilt University and UNC-Chapel Hill, writing a master's thesis about how the Cold War-era Defense Department influenced Hollywood's WWII movies.

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