CNN reports that the pilots who breached DC airspace yesterday have been released without charges.
Let’s think about this for a moment. . . . If I drive 75 in a 35 zone because I don’t know the speed limit, I’d still be charged with speeding and/or reckless driving. If I ran a red light because I didn’t see it and caused an accident, I’d still be charged with running a red light.
Likewise, if somebody flies into restricted airspace, refuses to answer his radio, and ignores signals from F-16 fighter jets until they start shooting flares—all within sight of downtown Washington—that person should be charged. They should be punished even if they’re just a moron who didn’t check the charts and didn’t know FAA and DHS regulations regarding the use of fixed-wing aircraft in the greater DC area.
Threatening the seat of government, even if you threaten out of stupidity rather than malice, is still a crime. The flares were the last step before the F-16s would have been authorized to shoot the friggin’ plane out of the sky, putting the lives of the pilots and people on the ground at risk. This is not something that can be taken lightly.
The pilots in question should have their licenses revoked by the FAA, be fined, and be charged in Federal Court with making a threat against the government of the United States of America.
In this particular case nobody was hurt, but those pilots and their craft were literally seconds from meeting a Sidewinder missile and becoming a hulk of flaming, airborne wreckage that could have killed innocent people on the ground. I could have been one of those people on the ground, and I am personally offended that these people are getting off scot-free. What they did yesterday is, at best, a dangerous act of negligence and a dereliction of pilot’s duty that cannot be dismissed so lightly.