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A fighter jet that buzzed the Philadelphia region Monday morning was escorting a civilian plane out of restricted space, according to NORAD.

The F-15 swooped over Philly shortly after 9 a.m., surprising residents who didn’t expect to see military aircraft in the sky as they started the workweek. Ideas for why it happened flew quickly across social media — including speculation that it was in honor of a veteran being laid to rest in Newtown Square.

Though the veteran was an admirable citizen (more below), flyover tributes of that sort are very rare. And in this case, it was a safety situation.

“There was a Wilmington, Delaware, VIP temporary flight restriction in place,” Major Andrew Scott, public affairs officer for the North American Aerospace Defense Command, told Billy Penn about the jet. “We were enforcing a TFR.”

Who was the VIP? President Joe Biden on Monday was at his residence in Wilmington, according to his public schedule. Though Scott couldn’t confirm, “that’s a pretty good guess,” he said.

Violations of restricted airspace happen on the regular, according to Scott, who said it’s hard to quantify exactly how often, but noted it’s not usually something done on purpose.


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“Most common is a general aviation pilot who failed to check their alerts and just didn’t realize there was a flight restriction,” Scott said. “We routinely enforce these TFRs — for everything from VIPs to the Super Bowl, or the Republican National Convention or Democratic National Convention, all those have a flight restriction.”

The Monday morning flyover happened to coincide with the funeral for Overbrook native Michael “Weasel” Domizio, who was laid to rest at a funeral in Newtown Square. He was 78, according to his obituary.

The jet flew overhead just as services concluded, according to former U.S. rep and current Democratic City Committee Chair Bob Brady.

“It went over twice,” said Brady, who described himself as a friend of Domizio. “I was surprised — but I was glad for it.”

Domizio, who spent two decades in local public service as a Philadelphia firefighter and EMT, rose to the rank of Army sergeant, serving from 1965-1967 during the Vietnam War. It’s pretty rare for a veteran to get a military flyover tribute. “Approval is contingent on many factors,” according to a government FAQ, “including the military status of the deceased.

Domizio did have a deeper military connection:

For years, he was involved with Honor Flight Philadelphia, a nonprofit that helps area veterans of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War travel to the nation’s capital “for a day of honor and recognition” while viewing memorials dedicated to their service.

The jets were not there for Domizio, Maj. Scott confirmed. “NORAD’s number one priority is air defense of North America,” Scott said, “which includes all of Canada, Alaska, and the lower 48.”