A pilot flying from an Ottawa airport last Wednesday in a rented Cessna 172M inadvertently set his transponder to broadcast the hijack code and then inadvertently flew into restricted airspace, according to Canadian authorities. Transport Canada says the pilot had planned a trip out of Ottawa with stops in Arnprior, Ontario, and Gatineau, Quebec. While en route at roughly 9:40 a.m., the aircraft suffered a mechanical problem, the agency said. In addressing that problem, the pilot mistakenly set the aircraft’s transponder to broadcast the hijack code and then managed to fly into a restricted area that surrounds Parliament Hill, which is Canada’s equivalent of Capitol Hill. Transport Canada is apparently content that both actions were inadvertent, but that didn’t prevent police involvement and the collection of one quote that everyone might have seen coming.
Airspace around Parliament Hill is effectively a no-fly zone beginning at 400 meters around the buildings and up to 450 meters. Amongst the obvious mistakes, the pilot did manage to properly establish contact with air traffic control and return to Ottawa without further incident. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has made its determination that the event could be attributed to pilot error and it will not be pursuing action against the pilot. In the words of RCMP Sgt. Marc Menard, who spoke with the Ottawa Citizen newspaper, “The guy was very apologetic.”