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Tue, Aug 22, 2006

Ohio Lt. Governor In Hot Water For Low-Level Flight

"Maverick... Were You Cleared To Buzz The Statehouse?"

The pilot of an Air National Guard F-16D and Ohio Lieutenant Governor Bruce Johnson are both standing tall before the man... after complaints about a low-level flight over downtown Columbus Thursday. Seems the flight may have been just a little TOO low-level.

The Columbus Dispatch reports Johnson was riding along on an orientation flight last Thursday... the type the military often gives to dignitaries and media-types.

The F-16 pilot reportedly had permission from the FAA to do a couple of low passes over the Ohio statehouse as the men flew from Springfield Air National Guard Base to an MOA in the southwestern part of the state... and that's where the trouble began.

The Guard says the flight was within regulations... but FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory says the FAA has received a handful of complaints, and that the military aircraft may have been just a little too low for the surroundings. Columbus police added their offices were swamped with "911 calls galore" regarding the flight, as well.

Per the FARs, aircraft flying over a metropolitan area must maintain an altitude at least 1,000 feet above the tallest structure in the area -- which, in the case of downtown Columbus, is the 628-foot-tall Rhodes Tower.

National Guard spokesman Mark Wayda told the Dispatch the jet's instruments showed the pilot stayed between 2,000 and 3,000 feet throughout the flight -- within regs.

Another spokesman for the ANG, James Sims, says the situation may all just be a misunderstanding.

"It’s quite possible for folks who are untrained or have not been around aircraft, especially military aircraft, to think they heard multiple aircraft or that it was lower than it actually was," Sims said.

FMI: www.oh.ang.af.mil/

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