Pilot may face penalties for violating airspace restrictions during Obama visit

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by GLENN FARLEY / KING 5 News & KING5.com Staff

Bio | Email | Follow: @GlennFarley

KING5.com

Posted on August 18, 2010 at 12:05 PM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 18 at 5:51 PM

SEATTLE - The Federal Aviation Administration says it may be weeks before an investigation into a Kirkland pilot's breaching the airspace restrictions in place Tuesday due to President Obama's visit to Seattle.

The violation caused two F-15 jet fighters to scramble from Portland, breaking the sound barrier to reach Seattle. The sonic booms were heard from Portland to north of Seattle and frightened residents throughout Western Washington.

FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer won't speculate on what penalties the pilot might face until an investigation is done.

"We really don't know what happened here," he told the Seattle Times. The inquiry should be relatively fast, he said, because it will be helped by radar data.

Pilot Lee Dailey and his passenger, Laura Joseph, were returning home after a weekend at Lake Chelan. They landed on Lake Washington in Kenmore.

"We just landed, sailed in here, nice and peaceful, pulled up to the dock and a guy came out and said I have some bad news for you guys," said Joseph. "Obama is in town and you guys violated the air space or something."

Once they landed, Dailey and Joseph were interviewed by the Secret Service. The Secret Service then spent about 90 minutes checking out the plane.

Joseph said she and Daily were allowed to leave after being interviewed and haven't heard anything yet about possible sanctions.

What's a sonic boom?

If you could freeze it at the right moment, you can see the formation of a wave that's not unlike a wake from a boat.

Setting off sonic booms is avoided over land, even by the military. But some people do get a chance to hear them at sea.

Air safety analyst Todd Curtis heard Tuesday's booms along with thousands of others. He says the F-15 is big enough to create a shock wave at the nose and tail of the aircraft.

"There are various levels of pilots," he said. "Some are very, very diligent about looking at the Notams and the TFRs, others are not."
 

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