Some of the pilots flying to the annual Hagerstown Fly-In in Maryland in antique airplanes without radios found themselves in unexpected trouble Oct. 7. At least a dozen flew into airspace they didn’t know had been restricted for a visit by President Bush to a memorial service for firefighters.
According to the FAA, an unusually large number of planes found themselves in the no-fly zone.
Four were escorted out of it by F-16s, later to be “interviewed” by FAA and Secret Service personnel, according to the FAA’s Laura Brown and Secret Service spokeswoman Kim Bruce. Brown said they could “face penalties, including suspension of their pilot’s licenses.”
The fly-in, which benefits the local EAA chapter and the new Hagerstown Aviation Museum, just happened at the wrong time and place this year, said Tracey Potter, owner of Hagerstown Aircraft Services, the FBO on the field.
The fly-in often attracts a hundred or more visiting airplanes, said Potter, who spent about six months organizing the event. This year only about 20 visited, she said. “The TFR really killed our event.”
One light plane arrived overhead with an F-16 circling it, Potter said. “I can’t imagine what the feeling would be when that fighter is screaming around you. The pilot had to be terrified.”
The FAA’s Brown was less sympathetic. “Pilots are supposed to check the NOTAMS,” she said, commenting that if they’d been using their radios they wouldn’t have strayed into the no-fly zone.