Even as fighter jets were scrambled on successive days this month to intercept airspace violators near the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md., military and civilian aviation officials say fewer pilots are breaking U.S. airspace restrictions this year.
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, which represents private and business pilots, has been trying to reduce the number of airspace violations through publicity and training, said Craig Spence, the organization's vice president for operations and international affairs.The group is also working with the Federal Aviation Administration to configure airspace restrictions to minimize disruption of private flights but still protect people on the ground, Spence said.
"We have one common goal, and that's making sure there are no (temporary flight restriction) violations," he said.
Nationwide, the number of airspace violations is down so far this year, according to FAA figures.
The FAA has reported 122 airspace violations in 2011, a pace that would result in about 220 for the full year. That would be the lowest by far since 2008, when the agency began tracking the number in detail.
The FAA reported 387 violations in 2008, 358 in 2009 and 382 in 2010.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command scrambled fighter jets twice on July 9 and once on July 10 to intercept private planes that were flying near Camp David and weren't in radio contact with civil aviation officials. President Barack Obama was at Camp David for part of that weekend.
All three planes left the restricted area and landed at nearby airports. An FAA spokesman said he didn't know whether any of the pilots faced civil or criminal action.
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, NORAD aircraft have responded to 3,432 airspace violations nationwide, or about 346 a year, said NORAD spokesman Lt. Mike Humphreys. NORAD aircraft actually intercepted violators an average of 140 times a year, he said. In the other cases, the planes left restricted areas before the interceptors arrived.More.