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Thu, May 12, 2005

Incursion Pilots Released

No Charges Filed

The two general aviation pilots at the center of Wednesday's air scare in Washington, DC, were laying low Thursday, staying away from telephones and dodging reporters' questions. Although they probably won't face criminal charges, according to federal authorities, at least one of them could be looking at a 60-day certificate suspension -- or even revocation.

Lititz, PA, resident Heyden "Jim" Schaeffer, 69, and 36-year old Troy Martin of Akron, PA, were released Wednesday after the Cessna 150K they were flying in flew to within three miles of the White House. The executive mansion, Capitol and Supreme Court were all evacuated before the little plane was finally turned away by fighters and DHS Black Hawk helicopters.

"They were navigating by sight and were lost," said Justice Department spokesman Kevin Madden, quoted by Lancaster Online.

The two men were searched and questioned for about an hour before officials came to that conclusion, he said.

John Henderson, a pilot and secretary of the Vintage Aero Club in Smoketown, PA, where Schaeffer and Martin rented the Cessna 150K, was certain this was all a very big mistake.

"I’m certain he didn't know (he was that close to the capital)," he told Lancaster Online, referring to his friend, Schaeffer. "I’d bet money on that. I think they got lost, which is not difficult to do."

Contrary to earlier reports, Henderson said neither of the two pilots aboard the 150K brought along a GPS.

"GPS makes life so simple for a pilot," he said. "It also depicts restricted airspace."

Their incursion into the Washington ADIZ, Henderson said, was a "dumb mistake. Oh man. I would be, well, if that were me, the curtains would be down and the door would be locked."

Schaeffer and Martin may indeed be homed with the doors locked and the curtains drawn, but they're far from out of the woods yet. Even though they weren't arrested when they were forced to land at Frederick Municipal Airport near Camp David, MD, Schaeffer faces suspension of his flying ticket for at least 60-days, said FAA Examiner Michael Kuhn, of East Lampeter Township. He said Schaeffer may even face a revocation hearing.

Another local pilot, 70-year old John Otto, told Lancaster Online, "I don’t know why they would venture into that airspace without the proper equipment. They are nice guys, but they sure did cause a hell of a ruckus."

FMI: www.faa.gov

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