Fighter jets forced a private airplane to make an unscheduled landing at an airport after the plane violated restricted airspace around Camp David, the Secret Service said.
F-16s intercepted the single-engine Firefly about 9:30 a.m. Sunday and forced the landing at Frederick Municipal Airport, authorities said. Maryland State Police held the pilot until Secret Service agents arrived.
“We interviewed the pilot and he was unaware that he had wandered into restricted airspace,” Secret Service spokesman Eric Zahren said. The pilot wasn’t charged.
Zahren refused to release the pilot’s name because he wasn’t charged. The plane, which was painted to resemble a vintage Army aircraft, is registered to Gregory Curtis of Raleigh, N.C., The Frederick News-Post reported Monday.
Most of the time, the restricted airspace around Camp David is 12,500 feet high with a radius of three nautical miles, or about 3½ miles. But when the president is at Camp David, as he was Sunday, the space expands to an altitude of 18,000 feet with a radius of five nautical miles, or nearly six miles.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, the zone has been violated 167 times, often by pilots who didn’t know whether the airspace had a three-or five-nautical-mile radius, the News-Post reported.
To avoid such problems, pilots should check the Federal Aviation Administration’s publicly posted Notices to Airmen, said Chris Dancy, spokesman for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, which represents private pilots.
At least two other planes have been forced to land at Frederick this year for violating either the Camp David airspace or the protected airspace over Washington. An incident in May drew national attention when the U.S. Capitol was briefly evacuated.