A Grover Beach man was not flying a small plane registered in his name when it veered into airspace restricted for use by a military helicopter carrying President Barack Obama.
Once fighter jets forced the plane to land Thursday in Long Beach, authorities discovered pounds of marijuana inside and arrested the pilot. Long Beach police have not identified that person.
David W. Major, 52, of Grover Beach, the owner of the four-seat Cessna aircraft that was forced to land at Long Beach Airport, has been the registered owner of the plane since 1999, according to documents filed with the Federal Aviation Administration.
Long Beach authorities have one man in custody on suspicion of drug charges but will not identify the suspect, according to Lisa Massacani, spokeswoman for the Long Beach Police Department. Massacani also declined to say where he was being held or give the specific charges against him.
The plane has been flown into San Diego and Long Beach airports multiple times in the past month, according to registered flight plans.
According to the Los Angeles Times, on Thursday the Cessna entered the restricted airspace about 11 a.m. as the president was flying from Orange County to Los Angeles aboard Marine One, a military helicopter. Federal officials said the Cessna was never close enough to endanger Obama.
Air traffic controllers tried repeatedly to contact the single-engine Cessna, authorities said, but the pilot did not respond. The plane was quickly intercepted by two F-16 fighters from March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County, they said.
Brian Leary, a spokesman for the Secret Service, which provides protection for the president, said the plane violated temporary restrictions that had been imposed by the Federal Aviation Administration for Obama’s visit to California.
Pilots who violate airspace restricted for security reasons can face revocation of their flying certificates, FAA officials said. If illegal drugs are found onboard, the aircraft can be confiscated by law enforcement agencies.
Major could not be reached for comment Friday.
The Los Angeles Times contributed to this report. Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.