A Chance Meeting
Sometimes reviewing the latest NOTAMs and TFRs isn’t enough
There I was, climbing through 5,500 feet in southeastern Texas, when I had a close encounter with a Boeing 747 named Air Force One. It was closer than I would have liked, anyway.
I was flying my Mooney to Florida last April for the Sun ’n Fun Fly-In, had departed California late in the day and spent the first night in Carlsbad, N.M. The following day, I flew the first leg from Carlsbad to Lampasas, Texas, on a VFR flight plan. I had been briefed that President Bush was visiting Fort Hood, Texas, that day and that there was a temporary flight restriction (TFR) in effect surrounding Fort Hood until 3:15 p.m. local.
On the way to Lampasas, I checked with Flight Service on the status of the TFR and was advised again that the TFR was in effect until 3:15 local. The airspace around Lampasas wasn’t closed, but only airplanes on VFR or IFR flight plans were being allowed into the area prior to 3:15. I closed my flight plan upon landing at Lampasas at 2:45, refueled and elected to wait on the ground and have lunch until after the TFR expired. While I was there, I asked the airport operator if he had a copy of the NOTAM. He did and he showed it to me. The expiration was noted as 3:15 p.m. local time.
Accordingly, at 3:45, I fired up the Mooney, taxied out and departed Lampasas for Baton Rouge, La. As I climbed out, I was careful to stay well south of the normal restricted areas associated with Fort Hood, R6302A, B and C. My route of flight was also well south of President Bush’s Crawford, Texas, prohibited area, P-49, which was inactive since the TFR had been cancelled at 3:15—or so I thought.
Climbing through 5,500 feet for 7,500 feet, I saw an F-16 arcing across in front of me and turning right about a mile ahead. Hmm, I thought, and double-checked both the Garmin and ARNAV GPSs to make certain that I was nowhere near either P-49 or any of the R6302 areas.