This was forwarded to me by Dave Schaefer, professional pilot and L3 certification committee chair.
The guys in Washington are a little panicky. They really could stand a good dose of cool. Protocol allows for ATC to contact the air force and SS. But it's not reciprocal. Seems the air force and SS didn't bother to call ATC before they hit the panic button.
From AIN Alerts, June 10, 2004 From the editors of Aviation International News
Transponder Problem Causes Capitol Hill Panic Attack
It?s hard to believe that a King Air A100 registered to the Kentucky State Police could cause widespread panic through the halls of Congress, but that?s exactly what happened yesterday afternoon. N24SP was carrying Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher to Washington, D.C., to attend funeral services for former President Ronald Reagan. While inside the Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ), the King Air?s transponder failed about 13 miles southwest of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), the flight?s intended destination. (Fletcher had prior permission to land at DCA.) According to an FAA spokesman, the twin turboprop never lost voice communication with ATC during the transponder outage, and the pilot did not violate any airspace restrictions or FARs. However, this did not stop people at NORAD (which monitors ATC radar returns) and the Secret Service from ordering the evacuation of prominent government buildings, where loudspeakers reportedly blared, "Incoming plane! You have one minute to impact." Panic ensued on Capitol Hill, where women were told to take off their heeled shoes so they could run to exit the building. Before cooler heads prevailed and gave the all clear, F-15s were scrambled to intercept the King Air.