An Eye in the Sky

By: Alana Adams
By: Alana Adams

The lack of communication may be most responsible for the evacuation of the White House and time spent determining whether the governor of Kentucky was a threat.

Gov. Ernie Fletcher had a waver from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Security Administration to fly into a restricted area near the White House without a working transponder on the day of President Reagan's funeral.

Maj. Gen. Craig R. McKinley is the commander of the First Air Force at Tyndall and is responsible for safety in the skies.

"We were very much watching for any type of activity that would have been unidentified, classified unidentified."

Without a working transponder those on the ground cannot identify who you are. On 9/11 the terrorists turned off the transponders in the hijacked planes.

"But the FAA on the other hand, and their controllers, were tracking the governor of Kentucky's aircraft into Washington Reagan National on a waver, but that information was not passed to the military."

But General McKinley says in that situation they reverted to what he calls "textbook procedure" and immediately assessed it an unidentified but a low threat.

"We executed those procedures that day as we have done since 9/11.”

Gen. McKinley says there have been more than 1,800 similar intercepts since 9/11 to identify unknown air traffic. He assures this was not a close call, just another day on the job for Air Defense, a day the governor of Kentucky will not soon forget.


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