Cuba, U.S. Scramble Fighters in Havana
By Andrew Cawthorne
Read the original article.
Cuba and the United States
scrambled fighter jets on Saturday over the Florida
Straits when an American pilot buzzed Havana
illegally to drop anti- communist leaflets calling
President Fidel Castro an ``old dinosaur.''
A major confrontation was avoided, however, as the
small Cessna 172, piloted by a Vietnamese-born,
51-year-old ``strident anti-communist,'' was guided
back to Florida unharmed after dumping hundreds of
pamphlets on the Cuban capital.
It was the first unauthorized flight into Cuban
airspace since Havana shot down two planes flown
near the Caribbean island by the Miami-based exile
group, Brothers to the Rescue, in 1996. Four pilots
were killed in that incident.
``For this plane to arrive today out of the blue is
shocking,'' a U.S. official told Reuters. ``Fortunately,
everybody behaved properly, and a shootdown was
The single-engine Cessna flew low across the 90-mile
sea division to avoid radar detection as it invaded
Cuban airspace shortly before 8:00 a.m.
As the plane circled over Havana, Cuba launched two
MiG fighter jets to force it back north toward Florida,
U.S. sources said. The U.S. Air Force then sent aloft
an F-16 to monitor and provide protection as the
The U.S. Customs Service confirmed details of the
incident, and said the Cessna's pilot was a ``strident
anti-communist'' with no apparent ties to Castro's
exiled foes in Miami.
``Suffice to say this is a very lucky man to be alive
right now,'' Customs spokesman Michael Sheehan
said. ``We're glad the Cubans showed some restraint
and luckily he was able to make it back to America
Cuban officials were not available for comment, and
state media did not mention the incident.
Havana residents said they saw the plane fly over the
coast from the north, then along Havana's seafront
Malecon boulevard, before swooping over the Old
The small, single-sheet leaflets were quickly collected
by Cuban police, as on similar occasions in the past
when planes flown by U.S.-based Cuban-American
exiles dropped propaganda.
Saturday was the 41st anniversary of Castro's Jan. 1,
1959, revolution, which is given more importance by
the ruling Communist Party than New Year's
``I heard a plane, then saw it drop pamphlets,'' said
Ricardo Shane, a resident of Central Havana. ``I ...
Where are the big bad Mig jet fighter pilots? Excuse me? Could you speak up?
Oh, yes, of course, I should've known, they don't like real competition, an even match, like a flight of pissed of F-15 Eagles just itching to splash 'em.