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Capitol Mayhem

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Transponder Problem Causes Capitol Hill Panic Attack

It’s hard to believe that a King Air A100 registered to the Kentucky State Police could cause widespread panic through the halls of Congress, but that’s exactly what happened yesterday afternoon. N24SP was carrying Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher to Washington, D.C., to attend funeral services for former President Ronald Reagan. While inside the Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ), the King Air’s transponder failed about 13 miles southwest of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), the flight’s intended destination. (Fletcher had prior permission to land at DCA.) According to an FAA spokesman, the twin turboprop never lost voice communication with ATC during the transponder outage, and the pilot did not violate any airspace restrictions or FARs. However, this did not stop people at NORAD (which monitors ATC radar returns) and the Secret Service from ordering the evacuation of prominent government buildings, where loudspeakers reportedly blared, “Incoming plane! You have one minute to impact.” Panic ensued on Capitol Hill, where women were told to take off their heeled shoes so they could run to exit the building. Before cooler heads prevailed and gave the all clear, F-15s were scrambled to intercept the King Air.

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Geeeeze, I dont know whether to laugh or cry... :rolleyes:


Communication has always been the weak link in human relations. The "chain" was working fine til the it got to the "link" between ATC, NORAD, and SS. Sounds like NORAD dropped the ball here, going to RED ALERT, FREAK OUT mode for some in-explicable reason, despite monitoring the comms with the aircraft and ATC... ;)

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