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Florence pilot violates President Bush’s airspace

By Eric Fleischauer
eric@decaturdaily.com · 340-2435

While President Bush was in North Alabama on Thursday, John Moseley’s daughter got the flight lesson from hell.

According to Federal Aviation Administration and North American Aerospace Defense Command records, three airplanes intruded upon the 35-mile protected airspace zone around the president.

The president arrived in Huntsville at about 12:20 p.m. He arrived at Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant shortly after 1 p.m. He left Browns Ferry at about 2:20 and departed from Huntsville Airport on Air Force One at 3 p.m.

Both Browns Ferry and Huntsville Airport were subject to temporary flight restrictions at various times during Bush’s visit.

At 1:20 p.m., a Piper PA-28 entered the restricted area near Browns Ferry. Two North American Aerospace Defense Command F-22 jets intercepted the plane and diverted it from the protected airspace.

The Piper is registered to Wings of Eagles Inc. in Florence, according to FAA records.

Moseley, who owns Wings of Eagles, lives at 251 Ridgecliff Drive in Florence, according to Secretary of State records. According to a Web site, he is a flying instructor. His listed phone number is disconnected and efforts to reach him were unsuccessful.

Rhonda Achord, acting office manager and wife of the owner of Tennessee Valley Aero, which operates Lawrence County Airport in Courtland, said Moseley just made a mistake.

“He was excited about giving his daughter her first flying lesson. He didn’t think to check the (temporary flight restrictions), and they didn’t have headsets on. They said they didn’t hear our radio transmission trying to remind them that they needed to check the (temporary flight restrictions),” Achord said. “He just messed up.

Achord had posted the flight restrictions on the office door, she said, but Moseley had a key to his hangar and never saw it. He also failed to check for any flight restrictions from the FAA Web site or by phone.

“That’s a flying lesson she will never forget,” Achord said of the daughter.”

Achord said she tried to get Moseley on the radio as he was taking off but could not establish radio communication.

“It’s an older aircraft,” Achord said. “He said afterwards that he could hear something, but it was garbled. He wasn’t paying that much attention to what was being said because he was so concerned with giving her that first flight lesson.”

Moseley was in restricted airspace the moment he took off.

“Air traffic control (from Huntsville) called us before he was in the air good,” Achord said. “We had several people trying to call him on the radio and trying to wave him down, but there’s not a lot you can do. You can’t catch up with an airplane that’s taking off.”

Achord said Tennessee Valley Aero was not at fault.

“It’s the pilot’s responsibility to check before they fly for restrictions,” Achord said. “He told me he was all wrapped up and excited about giving his daughter her first flying lesson.”

The consequences for Moseley’s goof could be significant.

“This is a major deal for a pilot. They can have their pilot’s license suspended or revoked,” Achord said. “It’s sad.”

Moseley was in the news in March when he stored a friend’s Jeep at a hangar in Lawrence County Airport. The Jeep caught fire in his rented hangar shortly after he flew from the airport with one of his daughters.

The fire destroyed the Jeep and damaged another vehicle in the hangar.

Achord said the Jeep fire in March was electrical.

“No explosives in it, nothing like that,” Achord said. “There’s no connection between the hangar fire and what happened Thursday. He’s a nice gentleman.”

Other violations

There were two other airspace violations during Bush’s visit.

One of the violations, according to FAA spokesperson Kathleen Bergen, was at noon. Brief radar contact was made with the craft, and FAA has no information on its identity.

At 1:34 p.m., a Cessna T-303 entered the airspace. The plane’s pilot did not respond to fighters’ signals to leave the restricted airspace.

The FAA had no other information on the Cessna, and NORAD officials did not return calls Saturday.

“It was just a really big oops,” Achord said of Moseley’s violation.

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