FAA Settles With Pilot Who Caused Evacuations

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By Paul Schwartzman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 15, 2005

A wayward pilot whose actions led to evacuations of the White House and Capitol last month has withdrawn his appeal of the Federal Aviation Administration's decision to revoke his license.

Under an agreement announced yesterday, Hayden L. "Jim" Sheaffer can reapply for his pilot's license in 10 months, an FAA spokeswoman said. The FAA had planned to bar Sheaffer from flying for a full year before he could apply for a new license.

The agreement came a day before Sheaffer's appeal was to be heard by the National Transportation Safety Board. Laura Brown, an FAA spokeswoman, said Sheaffer will have to retake written and oral tests before he can once again get a pilot's license.

The FAA issued an emergency order last month that barred Sheaffer from flying, citing a series of mistakes that officials said led to the scare in Washington on May 11. The agency took no steps against student pilot Troy D. Martin, who was at the controls at times during the flight, saying the more experienced Sheaffer was responsible for what occurred.

Sheaffer, 69, and Martin, 36, were flying from Smoketown, Pa., to an air show in Lumberton, N.C., when they strayed into the restricted airspace, eventually coming within three miles of the White House. The pilots, both of Pennsylvania, were intercepted by military fighter jets and directed to an airport in Frederick.

FAA officials have said that Sheaffer failed to conduct basic preflight planning and got lost soon after departure from Smoketown. The FAA also said that Sheaffer did not make contact after being intercepted near Washington by a Black Hawk helicopter and a Citation jet. Other government officials said that the pilots had trouble communicating on a radio frequency that they were told to use.

"I think it's a fair settlement, " Sheaffer's attorney, Mark McDermott, said last night. "My client is interested in promoting safety, so he has elected not to fight it and go through retraining. He'll get back to flying as soon as possible."

McDermott said the FAA also assured him it would look into the problems with the helicopter radio. "Everyone should be safer in the long run," he said.

Staff writer Allan Lengel contributed to this report.


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