...In The Aftermath Of Another Incursion

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Could Monday's incursion of White House airspace by a Mooney pilot actually be a blessing in disguise? It may turn out that way if it highlights what's becoming an increasing frustration for the FAA -- and GA pilots. Since Feb. 10, when the ADIZ was put in place in Washington, it has been violated more than 600 times. "Frankly, we're a bit frustrated that pilots are still violating it, and we don't know why," the FAA's William Shumann told AVweb yesterday. "It's on the charts, it's on our Web site." Pilots who violate the ADIZ (so far none have been discovered to be full-fledged evil-doers, or even to harbor any ill-intent) generally get a 30- to 90-day suspension of their certificate, Shumann said, but each case is handled individually. The range of possibilities does include revocation. It might be more understandable that pilots can be tripped up by Temporary Flight Restrictions that appear with no warning (like those that follow the president), but it seems it would be tough to miss the ADIZ and the FRZ. The FRZ has been violated much less often than the ADIZ, Shumann said.

The invisible wall in the sky that is the Washington ADIZ again proved incapable of preventing involuntary penetration, but was not bark without bite. A pair of F-16 fighter jets scrambled from Andrews Air Force Base to intercept Monday's most famous wayward pilot. Officers armed with shotguns prowled the White House lawn. Vice President Dick Cheney and other top officials rushed to a secure location. (President and Mrs. Bush were out of town.) Once the Mooney pilot complied with the jets' intercept signals, the incursion was deemed not a threat, and the plane continued to its planned destination of Siler City, N.C. After it landed, Secret Service agents interviewed the pilot and searched his plane; they found no weapons and let him proceed on his way. According to the Associated Press, the pilot, Mark Whitnell of Jacksonville, Fla., had bought the plane in Pennsylvania and was flying it to Florida. He told Secret Service officers he had been unable to contact the fighter jets, the AP said. Jean Mitchell, a spokeswoman for the Secret Service, told The New York Times the pilot had thought he was abiding by the flight restrictions around Washington, not realizing they had been changed after the terrorist attacks. The Secret Service was satisfied that he had not intended any harm, Mitchell told the Times.