Plane Violates D.C. Air Space Again

WASHINGTON (AP) -- For the second time in as many weeks, military jets intercepted a plane that violated the capital's restricted air space.

The Transportation Security Administration said the plane was directed to land Monday night in suburban Gaithersburg, Md., north of the District of Columbia, in an incident that forced the Senate to briefly go into recess.

This happened less than two weeks after a private plane was redirected to Frederick, Md., after entering the restricted air space. The pilot of that plane, Hayden L. ''Jim'' Sheaffer, has had his flying license suspended as an ''unacceptable risk to safety,'' the Federal Aviation Administration said.

There was no evacation Monday, as there had been on May 11, during the earlier incident.

The Canadian-registered Cessna was intercepted by military jets after it flew into restricted airspace without the required transponder signal, according to Transportation Security Administration spokesman Mark Hatfield.

''There was a Canadian aircraft that had a lightning strike and an electrical failure,'' said Laura Brown, an FAA spokeswoman. ''They were having radio problems.

She said the plane had changed course to steer around some bad weather.

In the earlier case, the government lifted Sheaffer's license because of the May 11 errant flight that led to the scrambling of military aircraft and the panicked evacuation of thousands of people.

Sheaffer's passenger, 36-year-old Troy Martin, who had logged only 30 hours of flight time, was flying the plane when the military aircraft intercepted it, the FAA said.

Revoking Sheaffer's license ''reflects the seriousness in which we view all restricted airspace violations and, in this case, the level of incursion into restricted airspace,'' FAA spokesman Greg Martin said.

According to the FAA, Sheaffer, 69, wasn't even supposed to have a passenger in the single-engine Cessna in the first place. He hadn't met the requirement to do so: three takeoffs and three landings within the previous 90 days of the flight.

He didn't take the most basic steps required of pilots before flying a plane, the FAA said. He failed to check the weather report before leaving Smoketown, Pa., and he didn't check the FAA's ''Notices to Airmen,'' which informs pilots of airspace restrictions and how to respond to a military aircraft.

When he got lost, he didn't call air traffic control or a flight service station to establish his location, the FAA said.

The plane was intercepted by a U.S. Customs Service Black Hawk helicopter and a Citation jet, and then by two F-16 fighters that dropped four flares.

Though hundreds of people have mistakenly flown into Washington's restricted airspace, the FAA rarely revokes a pilot's license for such an offense. In Sheaffer's case, the agency determined Sheaffer ''constitutes an unacceptable risk to safety in air commerce.''

The agency said no action would be taken against Martin.

Appearing Tuesday on NBC's ''Today'' show, Sheaffer said he and his wife checked the weather on their home computer before leaving. ''When I first saw the helicopter, I knew we were some placde we shouldn't have been,'' he said. He said he turned to a frequency that military authorities had asked him to call but that he could not get through.

The New York Times, in Tuesday's editions, reported that the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged that Sheaffer was instructed to use a frequency that was not available at the time.

Sheaffer's lawyer, appearing with him Tuesday, said the pilot is going to appeal the suspension of his license to fly and said there probably will be a trial.

Sheaffer called the incident ''very scary'' and said that at one point, ''I thought we were going to get shot out of the sky.''

Sheaffer, who can reapply for his license in a year, said that if he could change anything about the incident, ''I would have taken the controls'' of the plane and ''got away from the area that we were in.''

Private planes are not allowed to fly in the Air Defense Identification Zone, or ADIZ _ an area of about 2,000 square miles radiating from the three airports around Washington _ unless they have a special transponder code and maintain radio contact with the FAA.

They're not allowed at all within the Flight Restricted Zone, or FRZ, about a 16-mile radius around the Washington Monument.