C-150 Puts DC At Terror Level Red
Errant Pilots Cause Washington Scare
Capitol Hill Police Chief Terrance Gainer said the plane was on a "straight-in shot" toward the center of Washington. FAA spokesman Greg Martin said the 150's initial flight path made it look like the pilot (certificated more than 35 years ago) "drew a straight line" on a map between his departure point and destination. And so it was Wednesday (yesterday) near noon that the White House, Capitol and Supreme Court were evacuated (the president was out taking a bike ride.) while a couple of aviators out of Smoketown airport (S37) in Pennsylvania, apparently on their way to the Mid-Atlantic Fly-In and Sport Aviation Convention in Lumberton, N.C., flew a Cessna 150 deep into the Washington D.C. ADIZ and to within three miles of the White House. F-16s dropped flares to get the attention of the wayward pilots (the capital's "good" laser warning system goes live May 21) but it was a Blackhawk helicopter that escorted the aircraft to a landing at nearby Frederick Airport, after the Cessna had spent some 54 minutes inside restricted airspace. At Frederick, the airplane's occupants were taken into custody. The individual thus far identified as pilot in command has been a certificated private pilot since 1969 and was Pennsylvania Flying Farmers' man of the year in 2004.
The passenger's wife told The Associated Press that the two discussed their route around the Washington restricted airspace Tuesday evening, saying the flight would take them between two areas of restricted airspace. Instead, they managed to hit almost dead center in the most sensitive airspace anywhere. The FAA's Greg Martin said there was no deviation for the restricted airspace. Guards evacuated buildings; high-ranking officials, including former First Lady Nancy Reagan, were moved to secure locations; and for two errant individuals in a Cessna 150 the terror level was raised to red, the highest, for eight minutes. The pilots were questioned and later released without criminal charges being laid. "The two men in the plane have been interviewed, and it has been determined that the intrusion into restricted airspace appears to have been accidental. And no charges are being sought at this time," Homeland Security spokesman Brian Roehrkasse told Fox News. The pilot later declined comment on the incident when AP tracked him down on his cell phone.