'The Associated Press State & Local Wire'
13 September 2001, Thursday, BC cycle,
"Small private plane ordered to land in vicinity of Bush ranch"

CRAWFORD, Texas--A small private plane flying unauthorized in the vicinity of President Bush's ranch near Crawford was ordered by the military to land Thursday, a sheriff's deputy said.

Also Thursday, military jets forced a small plane down in Wood County.

In Crawford, the 71-year-old pilot and his son were detained for routine questioning by the U.S. Secret Service, said Chief Deputy Randy Plemons of the McLennan County Sheriff's Department. The incident, which occurred shortly before 10 a.m., may have been a misunderstanding, Plemons said.

"I can't even confirm if he was even close to the ranch," Plemons said. From what investigators have conveyed, Plemons said, the pilot went up for a "joy ride" in his small Cessna.

"Obviously, bad timing," he said.

The Federal Aviation Administration declared that the plane was unauthorized and ordered its occupants detained, Plemons said. At that point military officials, flying in two jets beside the plane, got on the pilot's radio frequency and ordered the Cessna to land.

"At this point we don't have any information that we can release on that." said Staff Sgt. Ruth Lewis with the 301st Fighter Wing public affairs office.

The plane landed on a private landing strip near State Highway 6, about eight miles from the Bush ranch near Crawford.

The name of the pilot and his son were not immediately being released. It was unclear whether any charges would be filed.

The sheriff's department began receiving 911 emergency calls immediately about the plane because residents believed no planes were supposed to be flying.

"We're just trying to ease the fears of people here," Plemons said.

Crawford Mayor Robert Campbell said the town of 705 is beginning to return to its normal routine after terrorist attacks on Washington and New York City. There have been no indications of threats against Crawford, even though it's the site of Bush's ranch, he said.

"Basically, things are quiet. Naturally, we're keeping our eyes and ears open like everybody else," Campbell said. He added that local officials are keeping a more visible police presence in town.

School in Crawford had been called off Tuesday, but by Wednesday children returned to class.

In Wood County, Sheriff's senior Dispatcher Rodney Mize said a private plane was forced down by two military pilots in A-10 Warthog jets about 11:30 a.m. The jets flew one above and one below until the private plane's pilot landed at Wisener Field near Mineola.

"I can tell you it sure spooked a lot of people this morning. Everyone is on edge right now and this guy was doing some afternoon flying," Mize said in a story in Friday's Tyler Morning Telegraph.

Tyler Pounds Field Airport Air Traffic Controller Jerry Head said the skies remain closed to general aviation until further notice.

Mize said the pilot was not fined or charged with any crime.

(c) 2001 AP  Reposted For Fair Use Only