11:26 GMT30 November 2020
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    When a civilian aircraft strayed into forbidden airspace over an election rally for US President Donald Trump in Arizona on Wednesday, a US Air Force F-16 fighter jet was dispatched to warn it off, firing defensive flares to get the pilot’s attention. However, the president and rallygoers thought they were fireworks of some kind.

    On Wednesday, Trump traveled to Bullhead City, Arizona, for a political rally less than a week before the presidential election on November 3. While he was there, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) established a temporary flight restriction area (TFR) around the airport where the rally was being held.

    “The FAA and NORAD [North American Aerospace Defense Command] typically issue joint statements ahead of time to warn civilian pilots about the restriction - but the message doesn't always get across,” Military.com noted.

    When NORAD detected a civilian aircraft violating that restriction, an F-16 Falcon interceptor was dispatched to warn it off. With radio contact clearly not working, the pilot opted for a more visual method of communication, dropping a line of flares typically used to confuse incoming heat-seeking missiles.

    However, the bright display caught Trump’s attention and he stopped in the middle of his rally to direct the crowd’s attention at what he believed to be a fireworks display.

    ​“Oh, look at that! Look, look, look! Whoa, look at that, they gave the president a little display,” Trump said during the rally, pointing up at the sky.

    As the flares fell and created a curtain of smoke, the thousands of attendees who came to see Trump speak began chanting, “USA! USA! USA!”

    NORAD said in a subsequent tweet on Wednesday that "the aircraft was escorted out of the restricted area by the NORAD aircraft without further incident."

    However, Trump didn’t miss the opportunity to taunt the opposition, musing to the crowd how difficult it is to get Democrats to pay for such a display. He was likely referencing American National Football League announcers Troy Aikman and Joe Buck, who got caught musing on a live mic about the cost to taxpayers of a fighter jet flyby over Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, on October 20, prior to a game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Green Bay Packers.

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    Tags:
    airspace, restrictions, fireworks, Donald Trump, flares, F-16
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