Plane was in restricted space before crash

October 24, 2006|By Greg Garland | Greg Garland,SUN REPORTER

The pilot of a small plane that crashed in Anne Arundel County on Thursday shortly after takeoff had been ordered moments earlier to return to Tipton Airport because he was flying in restricted air space without clearance, according to a recording of conversations between him and air traffic controllers.

"You are violating the ADIZ [Air Defense Identification Zone]," an unidentified air traffic controller tells the pilot. "You need to land at Tipton immediately, and I'll have them get you a number for air defense."

The pilot is heard responding that he will comply and land immediately.

Shortly after that conversation, recorded at 3:42 p.m., the single-engine plane clipped the top of a tree and crashed in a clearing of a wooded area near the runway.

Killed were Daniel Lee Eberhardt, 57, of Downers Grove, Ill. - who is presumed to have been at the plane's controls - and Bobbi Getz, 56, of Pittsburgh.

It wasn't clear yesterday what role, if any, the order to turn back played in the crash.

Laura Brown, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board are still looking into possible causes. "At this point it's way too soon to know what happened and too soon to characterize this as an ADIZ-related accident," said Kathryn Fitzpatrick, a spokeswoman for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

Special restrictions apply to general aviation pilots who fly in and out of Tipton Airport, near Fort Meade, because of its close proximity to the nation's capital.

Among other things, Fitzpatrick said, pilots must file a flight plan if they are flying inside the Air Defense Identification Zone.

"We know there is a question of whether the pilot had activated a flight plan," she said.

The taped radio chatter indicates that the pilot did not file a flight plan before talking off Thursday.

Referring to the plane by its tail number, the controller says: "N9130 November, you are squawking 1200, is that correct?" The response: "Roger that."

The phrase "squawking 1200" is aviation jargon that indicates a pilot is flying under visual flight rules and has not filed a flight plan, according to Fitzpatrick.

A pilot who has filed a flight plan, as is required for flying inside the ADIZ, would get a code assigned that he would then enter into a transponder, she said. It emits a signal so air traffic controllers can track that aircraft.

"When no transponder code is assigned, as on a [visual flight rules] flight, the transponder code 1200 would be used," Fitzpatrick said.

The recording of the air traffic controller talking to the pilot, which was first reported yesterday by The Capital of Annapolis, was posted on a Web site operated by an aviation enthusiast.greg.garland@baltsun.com

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