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Camp David's no-fly zone confusing for some

January 29, 2002

Camp David's no-fly zone confusing for some



By SCOTT BUTKI
scottb@herald-mail.com


Some pilots from outside the area are having trouble honoring an expanded no-fly zone over Camp David but pilots who live nearby are easily avoiding the area, local pilots and the vice president of a national pilots and aircraft owners association said this week.

The no-fly zone over Camp David, the presidential retreat in nearby Catoctin Mountain Park, has increased from a three-mile radius before Sept. 11 to the present eight-mile radius from the center of the camp.

Since Sept. 11, 62 pilots have entered the restricted area, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Jim Peters said Friday. Each pilot is investigated by the FAA to determine whether the action was intentional, he said.

Once local pilots learned the new radius of the no-fly zone, they knew to simply go around the area, said Stephen Pearl, a Hagerstown pilot.

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"It is just something you have to live with," said Howard Leedham of Greencastle, Pa., Aero-Smith Inc.'s chief pilot. Aero-Smith is a fixed-base operator and aircraft charter service provider at Hagerstown Regional Airport.

But not all pilots know about the change.

The majority of the pilots who have flown into the zone are ones from outside the region who are unaware the zone's radius has grown, said Warren Morningstar, vice president of the Frederick, Md.-based Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, which has 375,000 members.

Airplanes that go into the zone are tracked to where they land - if not forced down by military jets first - and are met by police and the Secret Service, who interview the pilot, Morningstar said. The information is then turned over to the FAA for possible action, he said.

Morningstar said pilots do not object to the zone's larger size because they understand the reason for it.

"General aviation pilots, just like all American citizens ... are willing to do their part," he said.

For at least a few weeks after the attacks, the size of the zone over Camp David varied, depending on who was there.

Peters would not disclose when those changes occurred, citing security reasons.

Some pilots had trouble keeping track of the zone's status when it was contracting and expanding but now that it is at a constant size, that is not a problem, Morningstar said.

David Pence, Hagerstown Regional Airport air traffic manager, said he and other workers in the airport tower remind pilots of the expanded no-fly zone boundaries when they call in.

Frederick pilot Richard Collins wrote about the no-fly zone in a new issue of Flying magazine.

"The frequent violations of this airspace at a time like this reflect quite bad on general aviation pilots," Collins wrote. "Are FAA-certified pilots that inept or that poorly trained at navigation? Certainly any pilot should be able to stay eight miles away from a point on the ground, and if pilots don't learn how to do so, prohibited areas may well be made bigger and bigger."

"It is no secret that it is bigger," Collins said.

But he understands some pilots may have trouble avoiding the zone because there are no easy landmarks to define the boundaries except that the southern boundary touches Interstate 70.

"Three to eight (miles) doesn't seem like much but it is a lot," he said.

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