Mark Miller is Commissioner of the Kentucky State Police.

Governor's Plane Not Off Course: Brash Editorials Are

On Wednesday, June 9, 2004, the Kentucky State Police King Air 200 and two Kentucky State Police pilots left the Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati International Airport with Governor Ernie Fletcher and a fully operational airplane. Shortly after takeoff, the plane's transponder failed, which meant the plane was not sending a signal that would identify the plane and give its altitude. Transponder failure is not unusual and all pilots are prepared to operate the plane during such failures. Despite the transponder failure, the plane was still being tracked by FAA radar. In fact the KSP plane was being tracked by Air Traffic Control radar from takeoff to landing on June 9.

Likewise, the pilots were in radio contact with Air Traffic Controllers throughout the flight. When the transponder failed, the pilots followed established FAA procedures and made radio contact with Air Traffic Control. KSP's pilots were cleared to move forward, via the prefiled flight plan route with FAA's knowledge that the plane's transponder was no longer functioning. During the flight, the pilots stayed in continuous contact with the Air Traffic Controllers and kept them informed of all altitude changes throughout the entire flight. In short, KSP pilots followed the explicit directions of Air Traffic Controllers until landing safely in Washington, D.C.

The Kentucky State Police (KSP) takes great pride in protecting the citizens of Kentucky. Established in 1948, the KSP has defined itself as a professional law enforcement agency dedicated to the efficient delivery of law enforcement services to the Commonwealth. As part of this duty, we also take great pride in providing the necessary protection for our state's chief executive, Governor Ernie Fletcher.

That duty includes providing the Governor a means of transportation, both here in the Commonwealth and out of state. Despite some of the unfair and sometimes inaccurate statements in the media, KSP did not breach that duty. The Kentucky State Police pilots did nothing wrong. Our pilots carry out a variety of missions other than transporting the governor; these include prisoner transport and drug eradication missions. Our highly capable, experienced pilots have an exemplary record with no occasion of incidence of any type. They followed directives explicitly, as they do in all instances, from air traffic controllers at Reagan National Airport.

The plane was not off course. The plane did not violate restricted air space. The pilots followed all protocols and procedures correctly. Furthermore, it is appropriate to also emphasize the fact that the pilots have had no FAA action taken against them. If they had done anything wrong, or steered the aircraft off course, disciplinary action would have certainly been taken by the federal government.

At this time, we are still uncertain where the miscommunication occurred that led to this unfortunate incident, but our pilots were in constant communication with air traffic control and the plane was cleared to land. Kentucky State Police pilots are some of the most experienced available and have thousands of hours of cockpit time. I am proud of each and every one of them, just as I am of each of the fine and dedicated public servants in the Kentucky State Police.

Recent editorials have claimed that this incident should be a cause for embarrassment for our great Commonwealth, for its people, and for our Governor. There is no cause for embarrassment when highly qualified pilots respond professionally to an equipment failure and follow the directions of the responsible federal agency to the letter. If it were not for an equipment malfunction, this unfortunate incident would have never been an issue, and would have been yet another of the countless routine flights our KSP pilots perform on a day to day basis including many flights to the D.C. area.

Kentuckians have every right to be proud of our state, and can rest assured in the confidence that the Kentucky State Police will continue to provide the best possible protection for every single person here in Kentucky.

Posted June 17, 2004

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