Pilots returning from the Bahamas and especially Bimini are causing unnecessary concern; while they file proper U.S. Customs and Border Protection paperwork, they fail to pick up the proper transponder code from air traffic control. The code is needed in order to cross the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). North American Aerospace Defense Command officials then have to investigate the aircraft as possible threats, officials at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, said.
The pilots are correctly filing customs paperwork known as eAPIS (Electronic Advance Passenger Information System). For some reason they do not pick up their unique transponder code that would identify them prior to crossing the ADIZ, officials said.
Pilots' failure to transmit the proper code adds considerably to the burden NORAD faces for tracking aircraft of interest and possibly intercepting them if needed.
Nationwide, there have been 8,000 scrambles of various military aircraft and helicopters since terrorist attacks of 9/11, according to Lt. Gen. William H. Etter, commander of the Continental U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command Region at Tyndall Air Force Base near Panama City, Florida. The scrambles are done to investigate aircraft on “tracks of interest.” Of those, the 113th Fighter Wing alone based at Andrews Air Force Base in Washington, D.C., has just passed the 5,000 mark.
The FAA says the number of pilots violating airspace in the Washington, D.C., region from Camp David in Maryland to the District of Columbia averages 229 pilots per year over the past six years. That is four-hundredths of a percent of the FAA estimated total pilot population for 2014 of 593,499. The actual number of airspace violations in the FAA National Capital Region by year are: 2009, 236; 2010, 212; 2011, 230; 2012, 215; 2013, 254; 2014, 224. So far in 2015 there have been 39 violations through April 17, 2015.