The Friendly Skies

Posted May 25, 2005 at 6:16pm

Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) said Tuesday he is working on a bill that would create automatic sanctions for pilots who violate the tightly controlled airspace around the nation’s capital.

Souder said the government needs to encourage pilots to be better prepared when flying near the Washington Air Defense Identification Zone, an area marked by a 17-mile radius around the Washington Monument established after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“How can we send a clear message to pilots?” Souder said. Although he has not finalized the legislation, the Indianan said possible penalties could range from a one-year suspension to permanently revoking a pilot’s license.

Souder’s proposal come in response to the May 11 incident in which a Cessna aircraft entered the restricted airspace and prompted the evacuation of the White House, the Capitol and its office buildings.

During the incident, two F-16 jets and a Blackhawk helicopter were dispatched and forced the plane to land in nearby Frederick, Md.

The Federal Aviation Administration revoked pilot Jim Sheaffer’s license Friday, prohibiting him from flying for a minimum of one year. No action was taken against the plane’s passenger, Troy Martin, who holds a student pilot certificate.

Sheaffer and Martin have claimed they became lost after taking off from Smoketown, Pa., en route to an air show in North Carolina.

In a separate incident Monday, another Cessna violated the airspace, requiring the use of military planes. Although the Senate briefly recessed, the Capitol was not evacuated.

It All Ads Up. At a breakfast reception this morning in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, the Ad Council and a number of Congressional leaders will salute several top media companies and trade associations for their contributions to public service advertising.

Former Reps. Vin Weber (R-Minn.) and Rick Lazio (R-N.Y.) will serve as masters of ceremonies as the Ad Council honors the efforts of, among others, Time Warner, ABC/Disney, Viacom, the National Association of Broadcasters and the Magazine Publishers of America for the contribution of pro bono resources and help in distributing public service messages.

Also in attendance will be popular Ad Council campaign characters Smokey Bear, McGruff the Crime Dog and “crash test dummies” Vince and Larry.