Some of the pilots heading for the annual Hagerstown Fly-In in Maryland in antique airplanes, most without radios, found themselves in unexpected trouble Oct. 7.
A dozen flew into airspace they didn’t know had been restricted for a visit by President Bush to a nearby memorial service for firefighters, according to the FAA. Four were escorted out of it by F-16s, later to be “interviewed” by FAA and Secret Service personnel, the FAA’s Laura Brown and Secret Service spokeswoman Kim Bruce told General Aviation News shortly after the incident.
Brown said at the time that they could “face penalties, including suspension of their pilot’s licenses.”
As it turned out, however, none of those security-driven threats survived an FAA reality check. The agency cleared the records of all 12 pilots who violated the TFR after Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Ill., chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee, complained that the errant pilots weren’t told about the TFR because flight service briefers lost their notification of it.
If the FAA determines that pilots were not properly briefed it doesn’t normally take enforcement action, according to Brown.
Pilots participating in the fly-in, which benefits the local EAA chapter and the new Hagerstown Aviation Museum, might have received warning anyway, had the event not featured antique airplanes. Expecting an antique plane to have a radio would be like expecting a Stutz Bearcat to be equipped with a GPS navigating system, Brown acknowledged.
A 1945 Fairchild C-82A “Packet” was a major attraction at the fly-in, which also has become a sort of Fairchild family reunion. In past years it has attracted a hundred or more visiting airplanes, but this year only about 20 braved the TFR and arrived without flying into the restricted airspace.