Nope, I’m not talking about the Prezzy’s gun-control confab yesterday. It was mostly unsurprising and in the end will probably have zero effect for good or ill. Except for the recent panic buying of guns, ammo, bb’s, rocks, and pointy sticks, nothing’s changed my plans to update our family arms locker in the next month or so. We’ll leave it at that.
This, however, is frightening: a 70-year old man held over 24 hours before actually being charged with…doing absolutely nothing against the law. He eventually had to agree to not sue the life out of the sheriff’s department in exchange for their dropping the charges. So does anyone still think “it can’t happen here”? Well it can, and it is, a little bit at a time: the proverbial “death by a thousand cuts” (or “being pecked to death by a chicken”, a cliché I normally use to describe raising children).
Local police have zero authority to order a pilot to land – it’s not like pulling over a car on the highway, which should be patently obvious. But these days lots of things that should be obvious aren’t. Here’s AOPA Pilot magazine on the same subject:
A better knowledge of aviation issues among law enforcement officials may have produced a better result for Fleming. Griffin said she had to tell the officers on the scene to clear out the runway, and one officer talked about commandeering the airport. “He was running around, the one guy that was commandeering everything, saying, ‘We were going to shoot him down,’” she said.
“A better knowledge of aviation issues may have produced a better result.” Gee, ya think? Oh, wait, they had it…
On the other hand, Griffin said that pilots from the Chesterfield County Sheriff flew the department’s helicopter to the airport, but left when they found out what was going on. “They pulled out a chart and they said, ‘Look here, … nothing in this chart says you cannot fly over the nuclear plant,’” she said. “’Nothing.’”
Sounds like the local gendarmes already had some expert advice within their own ranks. They just chose to ignore it. And if their brothers in uniform couldn’t talk sense into them, then who could? Listen up, po-po’s: You don’t have the authority to order a pilot to land and you sure as hell don’t have the authority to shoot down an aircraft.
I’m not a glider pilot – though it’s looking more and more attractive as an economical way to keep up my stick-and-rudder skills, ’cause flying powered aircraft has been prohibitively expensive for a long time. It could well be that this guy made a couple of judgment errors and needed to get some air under his butt quickly (looking up the glide ratio for this bird, it’s roughly 60:1 which would be 10 miles for every 1,000 feet of altitude). The heat rising from the cooling towers over a nuke plant would be a dandy way to make it back to home plate. Heck, he’s helping pay for it so why not? It’s not like it’s a prohibited area or something – because IT’S NOT.
Over-eager private security is no surprise. That the local deputies would go full Barney Fife and have a total freakout is the part that sticks in my craw. The cops assume tremendous risks every day on our behalf – but they also have tremendous power over our individual liberties. With that comes tremendous responsibility. And the more I hear about police acting irresponsibly (think no-knock SWAT raids at the wrong address or detaining people simply for photographing cops on duty), the more wary and impatient I become.