The July 8 front-page article about how close the plane carrying Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher came to being shot down last month illustrates the insanity that pilots flying in this area must face. The governor's flight was not lost. It was on a flight plan filed with the Federal Aviation Administration. It was in contact with, and complying with, direction from air traffic control, yet it was targeted to be shot down by the U.S. military. Its transponder failed, but that information was known by the FAA and should have been passed on to the necessary security agencies long before the aircraft approached Washington.
As a pilot, I am appalled that those responsible would call for expanding the area in which such chaos can reign, rather than exploring ways to improve communication between the FAA and the agencies responsible for security. Enlarging the "no-fly" security area would put more flights at risk and further strain air traffic control resources. Everyone living in the area of the flight restrictions should be alarmed. Imagine flaming bits of Gov. Fletcher's airplane raining down on your neighborhood.
As in the case of the governor's flight, aircraft equipment can and will fail, yet flights are routinely concluded safely and without fear of being shot down. Unless coordination between these agencies is addressed, the potential remains for colossal errors, such as targeting another innocent pilot, perhaps with tragic consequences.