I’m a pilot. I flew aircraft carrier-based airplanes in Vietnam and spent many years building my own airplane. But my day job is that of a professional futurist. I’ve written three books, worked with governments about how to anticipate surprises, designed national surprise anticipation systems, etc. I track trends, early indicators and weak signals and develop scenarios about what those inputs might mean
In the mid-2000s I saw the beginning of what is blossoming into a significant threat to flying in the U.S. During a high-level planning meeting with representatives of DOD the White House, DHS and others who were considering how to set up the airspace around Washington, DC to eliminate the likelihood of another 9/11. I was the self-appointed representative for general aviation in the room.
It was illuminating. The arrogance and ignorance about GA of the group that would affect so many private pilots was rather amazing. Their position essentially was, “We don’t care what the implications are to pilots – or the economy, for that matter – we are the government and we’ll decide.”
Since then I have watched and chronicled how our government, in the name of “fighting terrorism”, has systematically eliminated our ability to do things that common sense tells us are protected by the Constitution. (See this, this, and this, three articles from The Austin Chronicle by Michael Ventura that catalog the effective negation of most of the major amendments to the Constitution.) What this means, by the way, is that under the present rules of operation, government agencies like DHS and CBP believe that they can stop and search anyone, anytime for any reason that they want, which why they are sending heavily armed and SWATed-up teams into train and bus stations and highways to randomly stop and search individuals with clearly no probable cause.
The systematic intrusion into tracking in real time and collecting every bit of information on all communications and commercial transactions is ubiquitous and comprehensive in terms that the vast majority of citizens do not understand. For example, the NSA data center that is being built south of Salt Lake City is literally designed to hold 100 years’ worth of all of the transactions, movements and communications of the complete lives of all Americans, organized in such a way that at will, an analyst can chronologically array a complete lifetime of a selected individual – where they went, what they said, what they purchased and what they read and watched.
This trend has grown very rapidly at an unprecedented rate and there has been a clear attempt to widen the information capturing net to encompass every area of each of our lives.
That brings us to GA.
At a time when individuals, automobiles and trucks, ships and every other form of transportation are being tracked, one mode of transportation stands out as not being within the surveillance net: VFR flying, especially without a VFR flight plan. In ways that are significantly not the same with other modes of transportation, an aircraft squawking 1200 says nothing about where it came from, where it is going and who and what is onboard. It is hard to believe, in light of the extraordinary, broad based trends that dominate every other area of our lives that the government will not try to remedy that.
(My next posting will address this trend and what we can do about it.)
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