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Civil Air Patrol helps test D.C. warning system

5/19/2005 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. (AFPN) -- Civil Air Patrol’s national capital wing is helping the Air Force test its new visual warning system for pilots, a security measure set to become operational over the Washington, D.C., area on May 21, officials said.

The system signals pilots who fly into the D.C. area’s air defense identification zone with low-level laser beams in an alternating red-red-green light sequence to alert them they are flying without approval in designated airspace. Pilots who receive the warning must immediately contact local air traffic control and fly their aircraft out of the no-fly zone.

The ground-based visual warning system was developed by the North American Aerospace Defense Command specialists in coordination with people at the Federal Aviation Administration and the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office. The lasers are eye-safe and nonhazardous.

CAP, the all-volunteer civilian auxiliary of the Air Force, is scheduled for missions May 21. CAP will use its low- and slow-flying aircraft to pose as intruders into no-fly zones near the nation’s capital. Most of the aircraft in CAP’s single-engine fleet of 550 are Cessnas similar to the one that drifted into Washington’s no-fly zone May 11 and spurred evacuations throughout the capital city.

“This week we saw exactly what can happen when a pilot flies into an unauthorized zone in the D.C. area,” said Maj. Gen. Dwight Wheless, CAP national commander.

“Any such intrusion not only is a safety issue, but is also disruptive for thousands of people who live and work in the nation’s capital,” the general said. “This new visual warning system will give pilots immediate feedback when they are straying into a no-fly zone, and will be a valuable new tool in our country’s homeland defense program.” (Courtesy of CAP Public Affairs)

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