The Labor Day weekend was a busy one over our house. Back in the good old days, when the traffic pattern at the Frederick (Maryland) airport was perpetually full, general aviation airplanes filled the sky overhead. With air traffic down, that is no longer true. This Labor Day there was a lot going on but it involved F-15s, probably from some state’s Air Guard.
Because of the proximity to 9/11, and because the President was at Camp David, they had air cover like I haven’t seen in a long while.
Our house is 18 miles from Camp David, as the crow flies. A jet fighter circling in a standard rate turn at 250 knots goes over our house every eleven minutes. That has been the norm for quite a while when the President is in the camp but, starting on Friday, there was one every five and a half minutes. In other words, there were always at least two F-15s up there.
They used to use somewhat quieter F-16s and circled at an altitude in the low twenties. The F-15s are either a whole lot louder or they were flying lower.
Friday afternoon, my wife and were sitting on our deck, enjoying adult beverages, when a truly ear-splitting noise erupted from the sky. It was louder than an earthquake (two in the past year) or a tornado (one a couple of years ago). The noise could mean only one thing: afterburners.
I deduced at the time that a general aviation pilot had flown into the prohibited airspace around Camp David. This was verified by a news report that an F-15 had chased down an offending Piper and forced it to land at Martinsburg, West Virginia.
The prohibited airspace around Camp David is much larger when the President is there. This started not long after 9/11, or ten years ago.
This airspace, whether large or small, is the most violated prohibited airspace in the country, by far. It has happened hundreds of times. Every time, it gives general aviation a black eye. It was especially worse this time because big brother had said that small airplanes could be a terror threat and, as it will do, the media beat that dead horse to a pulp.
The main question that comes to mind is what action the FAA should take against a pilot who violates this well-known and widely-advertised prohibited airspace? Me, I’d throw the book at the pilot. What do you think?