The plane that violated airspace restrictions over Camp David last weekend has been involved in two other airspace incursions in the Washington area, the Federal Aviation Administration said yesterday.
The FAA said the Cessna 172-R crossed into restricted airspace in February 2003 and November 2004, although neither incident appeared to involve the same pilot as Saturday's flight over Camp David. The FAA declined to provide the name of the pilot in Saturday's incident, citing privacy considerations, but said the pilot 's license could be suspended.
Airworthy Aviation Inc., the Frederick company that owns the Cessna, rents aircraft to licensed pilots. The company did not return repeated calls for comment.
A Bush administration official last week said the recent spate of airspace violations around Washington has prompted renewed discussion about expanding the flying restrictions beyond the 2,000-square-mile area in place today for noncommercial civilian flights. But other officials this week expressed skepticism that the restricted area would be widened because of the additional monitoring that would be needed.
"Although there is no formal proposal to expand the [restricted airspace], we are continually evaluating the security measures within the zone to ensure they're as effective as possible to address any airspace threat," said Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman Yolanda Clark.
Thousands of violations of the Washington airspace occur each year, and such incidents seem more frequent on long, sunny weekends such as this past holiday weekend , when recreational pilots fly in greater numbers, according to agencies that monitor the airspace.
Several aviation industry groups said they have not been notified by government officials of any plans to expand restrictions over the Washington area, but they said they strongly oppose such measures because they would hurt small airports and aviation businesses, such as flight schools and service companies.
"Expanding the [restricted airspace] will only increase the number of violations," said Chris Dancy, spokesman for Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, a group that educates pilots of private aircraft about flight restrictions. "It widens the net. It creates greater headaches for pilots and air traffic control. It's already very difficult, if not completely unworkable."
Pilots who wish to fly into and out of the larger restricted airspace, known as the Air Defense Identification Zone, must call the FAA and indicate where they want to fly and when. Then, before takeoff, pilots must receive a code to enter into their transponder, which helps identify them to the air traffic controllers who monitor the airspace around Washington. Unidentified aircraft entering the area immediately are reported by controllers to other agencies, such as Customs and Border Protection and the Air Force, which launch fighter jets and Black Hawk helicopters to intercept the errant planes.
Expanding the restricted air space "would almost certainly result in more inadvertent stupid pilot tricks we've had over the last couple of weeks," said James K. Coyne, president of the National Air Transportation Association, which represents corporate jets. "I can't believe it will improve security at all."