Student pilot intrudes on Camp David airspace

`Lost' flier is greeted by two fighter jets

November 01, 2001|By Jennifer McMenamin and Mary Gail Hare | Jennifer McMenamin and Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

As soon as Ken Stinson saw the F-16 fighter jet flying alongside him on his final approach to Carroll County Regional Airport, he knew what he had done wrong.

"It all really comes down to a student pilot who got lost and who happened to do it on the worst day of the year probably," the 43-year-old student pilot said yesterday - after being questioned for 3 1/2 hours by the Secret Service, the FBI, the FAA and local law enforcement at the Westminster state police barracks.

"I went through P-40," the restricted airspace over the presidential retreat at Camp David, Stinson said, "and that's what happens when you go through P-40 these days."

By day's end, authorities had concluded that the intrusion by Stinson, who owns a management consulting firm in Reisterstown, was an accident.

Local pilots and the airport owner compared the mistake to driving the wrong way down a one-way street, noting that the slip-up is not uncommon.

"If he had done this before [the terrorist attacks] Sept. 11, you wouldn't have known it because there would have been no F-16s," said Dave Fadio, a flight instructor at the Carroll airport and a pilot with 11 years' flying experience.

Rather, flight controllers would have followed Stinson's plane on radar to see where he landed, called that airport to speak with him and most likely ordered him to complete follow-up training.

"But since Sept. 11," Fadio said, "this is what we're seeing. And it's a big difference."

The roar of the midday visit by the pair of fighter jets drew workers out of their Westminster offices and Western Maryland College students and faculty into campus courtyards to stare at the sky and wonder what was happening.

Over a hill from the airport, diners at Baugher's Country Restaurant ran outside, afraid that the loud deafening rumble was the roof caving in.

More than a dozen residents called the regional airport, and principals and teachers at nearby elementary and middle schools explained the unexpected roar of the jets to their classes after learning what had happened.

"It definitely made your hair come up on the back of your neck," said Charles Brown, 38, who runs a twice-a-week lunch stand near the airport, of the fighter jets that went screaming overhead.

Brown, who was in the Maryland National Guard for 12 years, said, "I told my wife, `This doesn't feel good,' especially the way they were circling and they were loaded. He had his [missiles] on and he was ready to go."

Officials with the Federal Aviation Administration and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, the division of the Air Force that is charged with defending the nation's airspace, would not discuss specific intercepts of aircraft that trespass into restricted airspace.

Sun staff writers David L. Greene and Tom Bowman and Sun news researcher Jean Packard contributed to this article.

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