The next and biggest threat to GA (part 2)

August 26th, 2013 by John Petersen

We may already be seeing the beginning of the government’s plan to eliminate VFR flying. 

Following the initial reporting by Ken Mead of AOPA, FLYING’s Robert Goyer, (among others) have been relaying the growing numbers of random, unfounded stops by heavily armed, threatening teams from CBP, Homeland Security, and local authorities of aircraft that were flying under VFR rules.   

Pilots should consider the following:

1.       The government has identified VFR flying as an area that they do not control in the way that they do most other areas of transportation.  They will work to eliminate that ambiguity.

2.       The government is being influenced by a concept described in a book, read and promoted by President Obama, named Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness, by American academics Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein.  One interviewer, reported, “When I talked to Thaler earlier this year about Nudge and asked him what was the core theme of the book, he said: “The central question is really whether by understanding human nature you can use what we call “choice architecture” to devise policies and institutions that make it more likely that individuals will make decisions that are good for them.””  Thaler has just come off of a stint working in the Executive Office of the President at the White House where his job was to devise situations where people were put in situations where the choices they were given were biased toward decisions that the government had determined beforehand were beneficial.

It is not unreasonable to suggest that the probing, increasing visible stops of pilots by authorities could be the initial attempts to “nudge” the aviation system in a direction that they desire (or to test to see what kind of response they get). 

3.       Federal and local agencies now use massive, overwhelming, intimidating force in unthreatening situations.  For example, John and Martha King were confronted as though they were known drug runners when they were stopped by four cars worth of gun drawn officers because of an N-number confusion.  The point is that there is a clear, new, nation-wide attempt by law enforcement agencies to default to force and intimidation as the de facto approach in increasing numbers of situations.  There is a clear trend toward intimidation.

4.       The most likely scenario – one used in many other situations – is to capitalize on an upcoming event, either contrived or not, to try to make the point that this lack of control presents the country with a vulnerability that must be eliminated. 

5.       There are a number of defensive strategies that could mounted to fend off this trend.  One is to begin to raise the awareness of the importance of VFR flying by reminding the pilot community of the unique, beneficial value of coming and going as we wish.  A clear community-wide commitment to the values of VFR flight would be useful if there were a future run at visual flying.  

Another would be to become increasing vocal, as AOPA and FLYING, and other publications have been, about the efforts of the government to stop pilots without probable cause. 

There could also be defensive legislative remedies as well.

It would be very sad to lose the last real example of freedom that aviators in the U. S. (and not many other countries) have — to take to the sky without a reason or necessary destination, only because of the joy and wonder of it all.

John Petersen

John L. Petersen is a futurist, strategist, and pilot. He is a former aircraft carrier based naval aviator, aircraft builder, and author of three books. He founded The Arlington Institute, edits and publishes the free e-newsletter FUTUREdition, and is the chairman of the Lindbergh Foundation.

The opinions expressed by the bloggers do not reflect AOPA’s position on any topic.

  • Deano

    We could use another civil war in this country.

    • Eric Tallberg

      Unfortunately, I think it happened without anyone realizing it. The far left has quietly and successfully altered the government and social “laws” over the last 10 years. This wasn’t done with blood, but certainly with a severe loss of liberty and freedom, the very things that true “Liberals” should have been seeking, but have instead sought protection and regulation through over-zealous governance. They then go and blame “Big Business” as the culprit when people feel like they’re getting the raw end of things (didn’t get the handouts they’ve grown to expect).
      I can appreciate the need for revolution, but it won’t be as you think it is. The pendulum will simply swing the other way. Revolution is inevitable, but comes in different forms.

      • Ethan

        In general I’d agree with you, except that this loss of liberty was primarily orchestrated by the right, with only the occasional liberal (e.g. Senator Wyden and former Senator Feingold) actively trying to fight it. The Republican party has really keyed in on the effectiveness of using people’s irrational fear of terrorism to institute police-state policies and stifle dissent that might undermine their power. I had high hopes that Obama (a constitutional law professor!) would halt or reverse this trend, but sadly that doesn’t seem to be a priority (or even interest) of his. It’s a sad situation and there’s plenty of blame to go around, but it’s pretty clear where the finger should be pointed here.

        • Mark

          Ethan,
          It is the uneducated voter like yourself that the Progressive’s use as there power base. You obviously have no idea what Obama taught (he only lectured really). You need to study hystory, economics and politics. You are obviously a drone with no idea what is going on here. And you are right about one thing. There is plenty of blame to go all around. But make no mistake, we are in grave jeapardy of loosing the America that we started so long ago. You should be afraid of the terrorist right here! Don’t worry, I know that you can not be reasoned with regarding these topics…….this is for others that may ponder on your comments a little too long.

          • Georges Kaufman

            Too funny. Mark, before you go around calling people uneducated, use spellcheck. As for being one who cannot be reasoned with, look in the mirror.

          • Elliott

            Laughing out loud at Georges Kaufman. You forgot, or didn’t notice the misuse of “there” instead of “their”, loosing instead of losing, and of course no spell check would have caught those, as they are spelled correctly, just used incorrectly. Furthermore, there is a world of difference between an “uneducated voter” and being “uneducated” and unable to spell all words correctly. By the way, can you help me find the spell check feature on this blog? I don’t see it readily available. And just for your information, I’ve known some really smart people that had issues with spelling and grammar.

            You remind me of a lot of people I know who can’t argue the facts in a situation, so they engage in name calling and other bullying tactics against those with whom they don’t agree. Most of them voted for “Ovomit” just like I bet you did.

  • Laurence

    The saddest part of this story is the overall feeling that the 9/11 terrorists have won. The USA seems to be increasingly turning in on itself, making life less enjoyable for its own people. And to what purpose?

    Eventually there will be so many surveillance programs that the watchers will outnumber the watched. Then there will need to be super-watchers to monitor the ordinary watchers…

    Meanwhile, a vibrant nation descends into paranoia. That’s incredibly sad.

    • Mark

      That is incredibly insightful, and sadly true.

  • Drew Shannon

    Lawrence cited a nation descending into paranoia. Some would call it tyranny. Civil resistance may become increasingly necessary.

  • http://Www.spaymexico.org Craig neilson

    The soft overweight under belly of Americans are living in a “filter bubble” and the search tools are feeding us what were searching for. The courage to explore is going virtual and our citizens are voting for security over freedom! Me, I will fly until they pry my fingers from the yoke.

  • Don Arnold

    Our continued involvement in tar-baby wars means too many action-junkie vets in all levels of enforcement.

  • Kayak Jack

    Watch Les Miserables. Read about the American Revolution. As we watch freedoms erode – think.

  • Allan Bowman

    Governments worldwide have made commercial air travel hell on earth. It appears they want to do the same for VFR flights. Automobile, bus, and truck traffic is untouched by their zeal but why not go after this sector too? A propane or gasoline tanker is a movable threat to everyone’s “happiness”, McVey used a van, clearly van’s need to be stopped and searched at random too. To call a country “free” that is turning itself into a Nazi like security state is simply a joke.

  • Franklin E. Fraitus (patriot)

    Under 49 USC § 40103, (2) “A citizen of the United States has a public right of transit through the navigable airspace”. Period, end of story.

    Let that sink in for a few minutes. We, as US citizens have a legal right to use the airspace. That right does not come with conditions such as the forfeiture of 4th amdt rights. It’s clear to me (and many others) that the United States is trending towards authoritarianism. This is not good. We should always err on the side of liberty, not government control.

    A few points: There are three levels of law enforcement-citizen encounters: The first level is a consensual encounter and involves only minimal LEO contact. During a consensual encounter a citizen may either voluntarily comply with a LEO requests or choose to ignore them. Because the citizen is free to leave during a consensual encounter, 4th Amendment safeguards are not invoked.

    The second level of law enforcement-citizen encounters involves an investigatory stop, as announced in Terry v. Ohio, (S.Ct. 1968)). At this level, a LEO may lawfully detain a citizen temporarily if he has a reasonable suspicion that a person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime. Because the suspect is not free to ignore the officer and leave, the 4th Amendment is implicated. Thus, in order to be lawful an investigatory stop must be supported by a well-founded, articulable suspicion of criminal activity. That is a suspicion that has a factual basis that the officer can articulate. Mere suspicion is not enough to support a stop.

    The third level of law enforcement-citizen encounters involves an arrest which must be supported by probable cause that a crime has been or is being committed.

    I’ve been searched a few years ago, while on the FBO ramp, prior to departure, by a US Customs agent. Besides the fact that the officer was belligerent, he was also 100% in the wrong. I ran into the office, printed up the bill of rights, highlighted the 4th amdt. and handed it to him. His attitude went from nasty, to downright anger. It went downhill from there. With all sorts of accusations directed my way, threats of arrest, and so on. I’ve never been involved in any sort of criminal activity, always been a non drinker and I work in a clean, professional manner. Yet, this jerk was trying his best to find some reason to arrest me. Including a comprehensive background check, license check, drivers license check, airport badge check registration check and more. Wasting hours of my time and delaying departure. To make matters worse, he opened the 3 rolls of fireblocked, aviation seat leather, I had with his jack-knife. Cutting the outer layer.

    After my negative experience, I’ve changed my mind on how I deal with these jerks. They will not be allowed to touch or enter my locked aircraft without a warrant. And, if I’m not detained, I won’t remain in the area. Nothing good comes from a LEO encounter when it’s their only job to find some form of violation. They are not there for my safety or well being.

    LIBERTY!

    • Robert

      You hit the nail on the head.

    • http://Sstew1954@aol.com Sharon Stewart

      AMEN to that Franklin!

    • Robert Ore

      “Nothing good comes from a LEO encounter when it’s their only job to find some form of violation.”
      While not aviation related, I had a similar encounter.

      While taking a nap on the couch one evening, my wife and I was startled by a bang on the door. We both jumped up thinking the apartment building was on fire or one of our neighbors needed help.

      I ran to the door and checked the peep-hole, and it was 3 Sherriff deputies at my door. I quickly opened the door but without thinking, left it chained. My response at this point was what you’d probably call typical; “can I help you officers”, what’s the problem” etc.

      One officer quickly escalated the situation; “we need to come in, NOW!”. As scenarios ran through my head, I’m thinking OK, maybe they are looking for a fugitive. “Who are you looking for” I asked. “YOU” the officer replied. At this point, I knew something was not quite right.

      I said, OK. And waited in an awkward pause. You found “me”, now what can I do for you. “We need to come in NOW!” I asked again “who are you looking for” and once again the officer said “YOU”. I politely informed the officer that no one lived here by that name and to please tell me what this was about. They obviously had no warrant, and this point no reasonable suspicion. As the one officer was clearly irate, under the current circumstances, I informed them that they would not be allowed in to my home.

      The irate officer was standing about 10 steps from the door and said “I’ll end this now” and charged the door, stopping just shy of touching the door. I didn’t flinch, and this clearly upset him further.

      “We’ve had noise complaints” he yeld. Sure. My wife and I sleeping on the couch (TV, radio and all “noise” producing devices off) and you’ve had a “noise complaint”

      The next day, I went to the Sheriffs office and talked to the patrol supervisor about the encounter. She admitted that the officers stood outside my door for 15 minutes before knocking, and did not hear a peep. However, SHE COULD NOT FATHOM WHY A LAW ABIDING CITIZEN WOULD NOT ALLOW POLICE IN THIER HOME WITHOUT A WARRENT. End of story. I had heard enough at that point and knew what type of “Law Enforcement” we are dealing with. Upon hearing nothing they just wanted inside to find some form of “violation”. I have no doubt that if I were a person of color, this would have turned out much, much differently.

      Just a few weeks ago, all the LEOs in my county went to 100% encrypted communications. They now can coordinate and say anything the like over their radios, no one would be the wiser. They have acquired 3 new armored vehicles. They have upgraded all their SWAT gear.

      What’s next?

      • Kevin

        Next is the “no-knock” entry from the SWAT for your possible violations. And what can you do then? You can live in constant fear of your police, politicians, and neighbors. 1984 style…

  • Richard Weil

    But you see this has been going on for many years. Drug testing was something even Hitler and Stalin never imagined. Then you have demanding proof of eligibility to work, a requirement for ID to get on a commercial airliner (utterly against what America is; this is just a way to reduce black market ticket sales), the ridiculous joke of the TSA (body scanners!!! At least those I refuse and humiliate the officer who has to go through the motions of a pat-down), and on and on. Each step might have some slight justification, but all together you get something that looks more and more like how people were treated in Khrushev’s Soviet Union. Except here you can yell loud…and be ignored.

    It’s hard to imagine the Americans of, say, the 1950s putting up with such crap, but like Germany in the ’30s this has happened so gradually that most folks aren’t aware of the total picture. And so much, like Cheney’s and the CIA’s torture and kidnapping programs, is out of sight. Throw in declining education and economic conditions so people are running scared and don’t really know their rights, and you have an easy path for control from the top. So folks can sing about being “free” and “brave” while told to huddle and let the profits flow to those building an Orwellian state.

    Look, Hermann Goering put it well when he said that governments can always convince their convince their citizens to do what their leaders want when the people are told they are in danger. It really doesn’t matter what president is in power, the bureaucrats and the military march on hand in hand with private industry, and Congress is too scared and bought to do anything. I have no answer to this except keep making noise and trying to educate people. And keep asking why something happens rather how to deal with it–after 9/11 we should have had a real national discussion of America’s place in the world; who knows, it might have prevented at least one pointless lost war based on lies and all the misery and hatred that stirred up. None of this might work, but to remain silent is to be complicit.

    • duck

      Very well said………I grew up in the ’40′s and ’50′s, and you’re right, this creeping Naziism would not have have been tolerated. But of course back then we had patriots in Washington and everybody didn’t suck Uncle Sugar’s tit. Nor did we have EPA, DHS, Etc…..nor a terrorist in the White House going after law abiding citizens. Never, never give up the freedom to own and keep firearms. When this freedom is gone then it’s all over. Be vigilant.
      I still fly VFR and will continue to do so until the skies are full of drones with unlimited TFR’s.

  • Scott

    If the goal is to implement user fees, then eliminating airspace that doesn’t require government services would serve that purpose. Once everyone must use ATC then the argument would be made that GA is using a larger percentage of of the ATC system and must pay more.

  • Robert

    Cass Sunstein is all you needed to say. This individual is a radical of the worst kind. Sadly the president has surrounded himself with a cadre of idiots to advise him. The militarization of police is a direct result of the failed War on Drugs. As long as there’s a WAR on for something they justify using military tactics in a non-war-environment. It’s disgusting.

    • Georges Kaufman

      First, it wasn’t Democrats who started the war on drugs. Wasn’t it “just say No” Nancy ?
      Second, if you think Sunstein is a radical, you’ve been reading too much wingnut literature. Go look up his real positions on some neutral site, say Wikipedia.
      Third, attempting to connect “Nudge” to a VFR-stealing conspiracy is far-fetched, to be charitable about it.

  • John Seevers

    It is clear our government is out of control and operating contrary to the principles and documents of our founding fathers including surveillance, searches, detentions, intimidation, manipulations, deceit, downright lying, etc. The list can go on and on. I believe the only way to bring this back to a reasonable situation with a limited number of non-self serving, non-career leaders where the number of takers does not exceed those being taken, is by the implementation of a constitutional convention while we still have the chance. The principles of self reliance, self responsibility and self accountability along with freedoms of the individual to make his own choices, needs to be reestablished. The aviation searches, although upsetting, are just a stepping stone in the erosion of our previous free way of life.

  • Joe

    Just say “No” (thank you Nancy Reagan!). No to searches, No to answering questions. Pull out your smartphone recorder and let them know they are being recorded AND READ THEM THEIR RIGHTS, THAT THE RECORDING CAN AND WILL BE USED AGAINST THEM! Shut the Gestapo down as soon as you can.

    • TallBill

      I agree, but then again, I have read that they will confiscate your phone or camera because they are so paranoid! How do we handle the situation then? When you show up in court, you will not have the evidence to show how out-of-line they were.

      • David

        I have already purchased an inexpensive pen/mp3 recorder from eBay. It will record two hours of audio. It stays in my airplane and I plan to start recording and slip it in my pocket if I am searched. I know what questions I wil ask and what things I will say (AOPA Kneeboard handout). Be ready. Do not stand for these illegal intrusions.

      • Mark

        Then they will have plenty on bloody DNA on the device they confiscate from me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It is time to fight back.

  • duck

    Only one way to squash Naziism…………smash it like a bug!!!!!!!!!!

  • Joe

    This is the kind of paranoia whipped up by the NRA to sell more guns. As if we didn’t have enough already.

    • Robert Ore

      Yes, yes. paranoia.

      Just a few months ago, if someone suggested that the NSA and other government agencies where tracking law abiding Americans, they’d be told to tighten their tin foil hat.
      We have testimony and video of law abiding pilots being searched and detained by law enforcement with no warrant or probable cause.

      With no judge, jury, or warrant our politicians and law enforcing agencies hold persons in “indefinite detention”.

      We have the IRS targeting certain groups of political persuasion.

      We have politicians openly and without blushing, attempting to dismantle the Bill of Rights.

      We have politicians and law enforced agencies embracing the full force of the “Patriot act” and the public has read little about the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act.

      We have local law enforcement all across the Nation gearing up in what could easily be described as militarization. Small town Sherriff’s offices with multiple armored vehicles, encrypted communications, military grade equipment, style and tactics.

      Nothing to see here Joe, move along.

    • Mark

      Yes….Joe….another progressive drone. Open your eyes and ears Joe. Do you know why the 2nd ammendment is written into the Bill Of Rights? Do you have any idea? Are you willing to addmit you know, or just can’t bring yourself accept it. We seperated from King George for a reason. Well….he’s back.

      • Georges Kaufman

        Yes, the 2nd was written in to provide for a well-regulated militia, not to allow boys to play with their toys to the detriment of the rest of society.

        • Robert Ore

          “Yes, the 2nd was written in to provide for a well-regulated militia, not to allow boys to play with their toys to the detriment of the rest of society.”

          You are suggesting that the Second Amendment reads:

          “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the Militia to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”

          It states otherwise. It’s not complicated. It’s not buried in legalize. It clearly states to whom the right is not to be infringed upon.

          And before anyone bemoans about how an aviation blog turns into a discussion about the Bill of Rights; it is the slow erosion of basic rights that has the aviation community now scrambling, clawing to retain some modicum of “privileges”.

          Anyone notice the TFR(s) over New York State a few weeks ago? It covered the entire western portion of New York and parts of Pennsylvania. If it covered an entire State, would anyone have said anything? How about a couple of States and the D.C. SFRA? Will anyone say anything if then the entire eastern seaboard is one giant SFRA?

        • l1

          Obviously not a pilot

          • Elliott

            Not very bright either.

  • LeWayne

    Let’s leave the partisan politics out of it. The conservatives pushed through the “Patriot Act” which makes a lot of this nonsense possible and the liberals have renewed it and continue to embrace the act. That said, I believe the media is to blame for a lot of this. They continue to purvey the notion that life should be 100% safe and if it isn’t the government should make it so. As aviators we should know better, but I see this feeling among many aviators (why does the govt allow unsafe cantaloupe, it’s OK the NSA monitors our private communications, etc, etc, etc). Until we quit living in fear (as the terrorists desire), nothing will change.

  • gene

    wake up America . they are taking Freedom away so quickly we shall not even have a chance to comment .

    • Mark

      YES! I’m with you Gene! There is nothing Partisan about what is right and what is wrong. Just what side you are going to be on.

  • VonMises

    I am now officially ashamed to be a veteran.

    • Larry

      Please, never, ever, be ashamed of your service. L. Brown Lcdr USN (ret)

    • Eddie B Smith

      Always be proud. Just be sure to remain vigilant to the travesties of our current governmental and cultural climates, and continue to defend the principles and liberties for which you’ve already fought.

    • Steve Hulland

      Von,
      Do not be ashamed about being a veteran – rather, stand up and fight for what you fought for. Freedom from government interference with our individual rights.

  • Boogie

    While I appreciate our rights organizations pointing this situation out to us, where were they on ADS-B? Instead of aggresively fighting, the AOPA and the EAA act as if a day-VFR plane won’t get off the ground without a $50,000 glass panel. We are supposed to embrace ADS-B, because it’s cool to have the latest and greatest in gadgetry in one’s plane. Am I the only one who sees that ADS-B is another way to price and hassle weekend pilots out of the sky, while making more room for the UAV’s to spy on us?

    While ranting, I will also ask where the AOPA and the EAA were on 100LL. An eye-dropper of water in the ocean is similar to the ratio of avgas to all fuel consumed. Where was the adamant, but polite, campaign to educate the public that 100LL is a miniscule amount of fuel consumed that won’t kill innocent babies with evil disregard? Is it better to have a turbo-charged plane, like a Navajo or 340, auger into John Q’s house?

    While I agree that we should fight having to file a flight plan to do mere touch-and-goes, we will all be ground-bound when we can’t fuel our planes and have to finally say we can’t afford to put a panel in the plane worth twice the plane’s value.

    While George Orwell was mostly correct, he was wrong on one point: We will be willing slaves. The left vs. right, Repub vs. Democrat, and liberal vs. conservative conflicts are all sideshows to distract us, while World Gov’t is implemented right under out noses.

  • Bob Turner

    Sometimes it is tough to be a liberal in the world of aviation, but I submit that it is not just liberals who are participating in the coming lockdown. I am all for regulating Wall Street and big corporations, but will be doing my part as a citizen to slow down the lockdown of the average citizen. It is to the advantage of corporate America to make sure we are controlled.

    That, of course, is opinion.

    Our airport will be locked down completely in September. Only tenants will be allowed, with magnetic stripe cards actuating gates, and TV cameras watching to make sure. This, in response to a redefinition of what constitutes an incursion (my city councilperson says it is a realignment to international standards), and a compilation of horrendous events over almost a year and a half, two of which might have been prevented by tightly controlled access.

    Many of my more conservative friends love it – keeps the riff- raff from stealing stuff. The folks implementing it are not liberals. The idea that more security means less liberty originated with Republicans in the early part of our history, and at the time the Republicans were considered liberals.

    Count me as a liberal in favor of more freedom rather than more security. In the meantime, I plan on three touch and goes in a J-3 Cub every single day between now and croaksville, magnetic stripe or not.

  • Because

    This tin foil hat stuff makes me want to end my 20 years of aopa membership. Aopa should be focused on real issues that are real theeats to GA not conspiracy paranoia boogeymen inspired by Glenn Beck and the gang suspicious of anything that comes out of the Obama administration.

    • Georges Kaufman

      thank you

    • Robert Ore

      NSA gathering data on law abiding Americans-conspiracy paranoia boogeymen, tin foil hat stuff

      IRS targeting specific groups of a political persuasion-conspiracy paranoia boogeymen, tin foil hat stuff

      Indefinite detention with no judge, jury, warrant or trial-conspiracy paranoia boogeymen, tin foil hat stuff

      The search and detention of pilots and their aircraft with no warrant or reasonable cause- conspiracy
      paranoia boogeymen, tin foil hat stuff

      Believe otherwise, and you’re racist.

  • Daniel Becker

    In his book” the Gulag Archipelago” Solzhenitsyn said about the raids on the russian citizens at night by the soviet secret police: If the first time it happened the neighbors had stomped the ass of the police there would have been no more raids.
    I see that everybody has a different opinion of who, what did it or is responsible. Quit fighting among yourselves. Think of solzhenitsyn and act.
    Also there is a new book by Mark Leibovich “This Town”, It shows that republican and democrats work well together to screw the public in the interest of lining their pockets. They sure know how to distract our attention from the real problems facing us, humanity in general…

  • Terry D Welander

    AOPA and any organization willing needs to sue the crap out of the U.S. Federal Government every time they stop a private aircraft without probable cause. Probable cause based on the 200 plus year legal system of the U.S. needs to be actual evidence of some kind of wrong doing. Not opinions. Not here say. Not anything which can not be documented. With enough court action hitting the deepest pockets on Earth, the U.S. Government, even they will eventually get the message that the U.S. Bill of Rights and the Pilots Bill of Rights are not be trifled with, trivialized, or ignored.

  • Mark H.

    It’s a matter of standing. You can’t sue if you don’t have a sufficient relationship with the event to complain.

    We need to get the ‘militarization’ of law enforcement under control. It is agreed there are threats out there, but the balance of what constitutes a threat and its degree is out of whack.

    People are afraid in their own skins and in their own lives. The media feeds this for readership. They see the threats anywhere in the world and bring them back to us in a way which maximizes readership. In the process it scares the living crap out of people. So the media maximizes it for readership value, and the people in power use it to maximize their power (all for our own good, of course!)

    The police see power at the local level as their prerogative, and like to have the coolest toys, too, and build up their armament in ways which may be disproportionate to the actual threat. Since they have the arms, why not use them on any given day?

    It’s a confluence of forces, each acting for its own perceived good, which is coming together to erode the lives we thought we had.

    • Terry D Welander

      To Mr. Mark H.: If you think you can find or can point out even one pilot who has been questioned or detained without probable cause
      who would not be over joyed to put AOPA or any organization to work in court protecting their U.S. Bill of Rights and their Pilots Bill of Rights including compensation for such a high and unlawful outrage, please do so, point them out or find them for all at this blog and all of the aviation community. It is called, get real.

    • Terry D Welander

      One other probably important consideration. Historically, American law enforcement has been known for its finesse; which has been missing lately with aircraft matters. Specifically, with all modes of transport, aircraft particularly, the public would expect law enforcement to surveil
      any potential wrong doers and catch them loading or unloading contraband; not tear an aircraft or any other mode of transport apart looking for contraband.

      Aircraft and most forms of transport are simply too expensive and sophisticated to be torn apart. And legally speaking, to tear any mode of transport apart and not find anything is most certainly a government crime. Having found nothing and made an airworthy aircraft unairworthy would be a particularly offensive crime. AOPA and all organizations engaged in any court action against the government need to assert these criminal activities that have gone on by the government in the recent past and see that they are stopped; or are at least
      the very last resort where there is a very high documented certainty of contraband before tearing an airworthy aircraft apart.

  • azure

    I don’t foresee an end to VFR in the area I live in. But in some ways, I wish it would. It seems like most of the replies are from pilots (commercial or private), I’m someone who isn’t either, instead I’m on the ground, having low flying small aircraft ignoring altitude rules over a densely populated area because they feel like it.

    And because of the FAA’s ridiculous rules regarding registration markings–that small aircraft (particularly helicopters & ultralites need have no registration markings whatsoever) often have registration markings that are not visible to the unassisted eye, or even to a telephoto lens. So it’s difficult to provide the FAA with a photo w/easily visible registration markings.

    Particularly if it’s an ultralite and there are none.

    I’d be happier if the (subsidized by every town resident because it’s unable to support itself) local airport and all the flight strips in this county closed. I am really tired of how loud small aircraft are and of the leaded gas fumes some still spew. Helicopters are even worse. There are not many commercial aircraft in this area, so there’s no reason for small aircraft to fly as low as they do–except the pilots feel like it and they’re clearly used to getting away with it.

    Maybe some pilots are courteous, etc., but way too many of the people flying around here aren’t, they fly much lower then they should, apparently just because they feel like it. Or they’re sightseeing and want to get REALLY close to a protected bird sanctuary. Apparently unaware that their noise & presence might not be desired by the birds in one of the relatively few places they’re protected. But I guess that has no importance compared to your “right” to the “freedom” of the sky.

    As for other restrictions: was it 2 years ago that the Federal Register had a notice regarding the need to re-register all aircraft? That was, I understand because the voluntary registration system had failed. The FAA did not know who owned 118,000 aircraft. I have no idea how far the FAA’s gotten in the re-registration or if there are any penalties for failing to re-register. There is certainly a penalty for driving an unregistered ground motor vehicle. Why shouldn’t there be one for aircraft? It’s pretty obvious that small aircraft, especially in rural areas, is even better then a ground motor vehicle for moving illegal substances, and that’s what some have been used for.

    I’m not particularly familiar w/the FAA’s motivations but I can tell you that from the perspective of someone on the ground, it looks to me as thought the FAA has been captured by its clientele–including small aircraft pilots.

    If they weren’t, then there’d be a rule right now that required all small aircraft, including helicopters & ultralites, to have their registration markings shown on: (1) underbelly; (2) underneath of the wings; (3) on the side of the aircraft and all markings a minimum height of 3′ 6″ and each digit/letter a minimum of 2′ wide so that the markings were VERY visible to anyone on the ground being overflown. And there would actually be a penalty other then being “spoken to” by a FAA employee for any pilot who violated altitude rules and those rules would be revised to require flying at a minimum of 400′ in rural, urban, small town unless the pilots was landing or taking off. That would include helicopters and ultralites.

    • Elliott

      I’d like to know how you measured the altitude of those aircraft. I’ bet a lot of money you just used your eyes and i’m certain you can’t tell the difference between 1000 feet and 900 feet when gazing at an airplane overhead. In fact I’ll bet my house against yours that you cannot.

    • Eddie B Smith

      I don’t know if you actually understand “altitude rules”, but I can promise you this: 1000 feet AGL (above ground level) is low enough that you can absolutely read the tail numbers on any GA aircraft I’ve ever seen flying over.

      Oh, and 1000 feet AGL is legal.

  • Gordon

    God help us all! With uninformed idiots like azure, we better buckle up……

    AOPA needs to get ahead of this general disdain for freedom of our sky’s and personal liberty.

    Blue sky’s…

    • Eddie B Smith

      Amen Gordon. If “azure” had any idea about the mountain of rules and regs applied to flight (especially as compared to driving a mere “ground transportation” vehicle), then he/she would know that 80% of that post is nonsense.

  • LastManOutTheDoor

    Actually it was Nixon that first coined the disastrous phrase “War on drugs”. Just say no was a social movement (and a catch phrase *I* still use), not an LEO call to arms and beat everyone into submission. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsrxpVUKUK0