Close-Up Shuttle View Leads To Chat With Feds
The pilot of an Aeronca Champ was intercepted after entering
restricted airspace Tuesday around Kennedy Space Center, and
flying near the space shuttle Atlantis and its launch
"He came pretty close (to the shuttle)," KSC spokesman George
Diller said. "He was within sight of the shuttle launch pad, and
you would think that would have set off alarm bells -- that he
would have realized he was somewhere he shouldn't be."
The pilot reportedly took off from Fort Pierce, flew up the east
Florida coast, and entered restricted airspace near Launch Complex
40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station around 11:15 am The
decommissioned Titan rocket pad is just a few miles south of KSC's
launch pad 39A, where Atlantis is being prepped for launch June 8,
according to Florida Today.
Controllers at KSC spotted the green-and-white Champ and
summoned a NASA security helicopter, Diller said. By the time the
helicopter took off and picked up the plane's radar trail, however,
it had exited restricted airspace.
The pilot did contact air traffic controllers at an air field in
Daytona Beach. He was instructed to land at Ormond Beach Airport --
which he did, escorted by a sheriff's office helicopter from the
Volusia County Sheriff Department.
Deputies met the unidentified pilot at the airport where the
aircraft was searched for explosives and drugs but nothing
suspicious was found. NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration
are investigating the incident, Diller said. The pilot is being
questioned by FBI agents.
The incident has not
disrupted the planned launch.
KSC restricted airspace stretches from Oak Hill north of the
spaceport, to the midpoint of the Indian River to the west, Port
Canaveral to the south and a boundary a few miles east of KSC and
the Air Force Station, according to Diller. He said it is
well-defined on aeronautical charts, but pilots unfamiliar with the
area sometimes stray within the restricted airspace
Pilots have not been allowed within the area since 9/11.
"We rarely have a problem with local pilots. It's usually
somebody not familiar with the airspace," Diller said.
Penalties range from fines to license suspension or revocation,
(Chart courtesy of SkyVector.com)