The FAA has revoked Hayden "Jim" Sheaffer's private pilot certificate for violating on May 11 the heavily restricted airspace over the nation's capital. The errant pilot's actions caused an international stir.
In the eight-page emergency revocation, the FAA found that Sheaffer failed to properly prepare for the flight, lost situational awareness throughout the flight, penetrated multiple layers of restricted and prohibited airspace, didn't respond properly to intercepting aircraft, and failed to take physical control of the airplane from an inexperienced passenger.
"Your operation of civil aircraft N5826G under these circumstances demonstrates either a complete disregard or lack of understanding of basic requirements for the safe operation of aircraft," the letter said. "These failures establish that you lack the qualifications necessary to hold an airman certificate."
Sheaffer was ordered to immediately surrender his certificate to the FAA. He will not be permitted to fly for a minimum of one year. He can then apply for a new certificate provided he passes a written and practical test. He has the right to make an immediate appeal to the NTSB. The FAA decided not to take action against the passenger on the Cessna 150, student pilot Troy Martin.
Sheaffer has hired an attorney, Mark T. McDermott, a principal in the Washington, D.C., law firm of Joseph, McDermott and Reiner, to represent him. In a written statement, Sheaffer claimed that he prepared for the flight properly by checking weather and temporary flight restrictions and conducted a thorough preflight.
"In an effort to be extra careful, and wishing to avoid the restricted area of Camp David during our flight, we over compensated by taking a more than anticipated southerly route, which consequently caused us to infringe upon the Washington, D.C., restricted zones," said part of the statement.
The emergency revocation represents the most severe penalty the FAA can levy on a pilot. "This action we're taking reflects the seriousness of the incident," FAA spokesman Greg Martin told AOPA in an interview Monday.
The charges represent the culmination of an FAA investigation that included its own interviews as well as information from other law enforcement agencies. Martin and Sheaffer were questioned immediately after the May 11 incident. Martin was re-interviewed late last week.
The FAA listed Sheaffer's actions by each regulation he violated:
May 23, 2005