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No criminal charges for pilots who breached White House airspace

[JURIST] No criminal charges are to be filed against the pilots of a Cessna 150 aircraft [Airliners.net backgrounder] that flew into White House airspace [White House press briefing transcript] Wednesday, prompting evacuations of the White House, the Capitol, and nearby federal buildings. For eight minutes, the alert level at the White House was raised to red, the highest terror alert, and agents directed Laura Bush, a visiting Nancy Reagan, VP Dick Cheney, House and Senate members and four Supreme Court judges at the Supreme Court building to secure locations. The President was on a bike ride in Maryland [Reuters report] at the time and was not told of the incident until after he finished his ride, about 35 minutes after the "All Clear" was given. Cessna pilot Jim Sheaffer and student pilot Troy Martin, both members of the Pennsylvania-based Vintage Aero Club, were questioned by FBI and Secret Service agents after being forced down by scrambled fighter jets and were found to pose no threat. The men could still face a FAA civil suit, however, possibly resulting in license suspensions and civil penalties of up to $1,100 per violation for entering White House restricted airspace, failing to respond to communications, and failing to be properly informed of flight restrictions. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association said Wednesday that the pilots "failed to properly plan their flight" [press release]. CNN has more.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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