Wednesday, May 20, 2009

U.S. Jets Force Down Small Planes in 3 Incidents

The New York Times, By MATTHEW L. WALD, Published: September 14, 2001

WASHINGTON, Sept. 13 ? Jet fighters forced down three single- engine propeller planes today for violating a flight ban in separate incidents in Maryland, West Virginia, and near President Bush's ranch.

Two F-18's forced down a Cessna 152 near the ranch at Crawford, Tex., before 9 a.m. Central time, a Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman, Laura Brown, said.

A spokesman for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, a nonprofit group that represents the interests of private plane owners, said the plane was working as a crop duster.

About 10:30 a.m. Eastern time, two fighters forced a single-engine plane to land in a grassy field 25 miles south of Baltimore. That plane had been near Camp David, Ms. Brown said. She said she did not know what the plane was doing in the area.

And about 5 p.m. Eastern time, two more fighters confronted a Cessna 182 near Martinsburg, W.Va. The plane had taken off from Evansville, Ind., Ms. Brown said, and the pilot later told officials that he just wanted to go home, to West River, Md. Warren Morningstar, a spokesman for the aircraft association, said that after the Cessna was buzzed by the jets, its pilot radioed the tower at Martinsburg and was told to land immediately.

Mr. Morningstar said the F.A.A. had issued a "Notice to Airmen" about 4:30 a.m. Eastern time saying that private planes could resume flying at 11 a.m., but then at 10:57 a.m. had issued another notice saying they could not.

"It was out there for several hours," he said, "leading people to reasonably believe that they could start flying at 11."

Ms. Brown said, "There was some confusion about it, yes."

But the plane in Texas and the one near Baltimore were both flying before 11 a.m. Eastern time.

Mr. Morningstar said a continued ban on private planes was unfair. "We're the least-likely threat," he said.

He added that some important cargoes, like urgent packages and bank checks, were delivered on private planes.

The F.A.A. has not said when private planes can resume flying.

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