FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and local law enforcement versus 70-year-old guy and 550 lb. glider

“Secret no-fly zone?” from AOPA arrives just in time to bolster my story about how much wealthy countries spend due to loss aversion. Afraid of a 550 lb. glider damaging a nuclear power plant, about half of all possible law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, geared up to hassle an unarmed 70-year-old citizen. He was arrested and jailed for 24 hours.

7 Comments

  1. Sharrel

    January 12, 2013 @ 1:28 am

    1

    I’m disappointed the pilot agreed to a dismissal in return for his promise not to pursue charges against those idiot cops. I realize being a police officer is a tough tak, although no one is forced into that career path, but these Barney Fifes seem to go crazy fairly regularly.
    And as you pointed out, Phil, the unfettered waste of valuable resources on this occasion borders on hysterical proportions. Sad and stupid, all rolled into one package.
    I’d love to see a national TV news magazine show get ahold of this story.

  2. jerry

    January 12, 2013 @ 1:12 pm

    2

    I’m disappointed the pilot agreed to a dismissal in return for his promise not to pursue charges against those idiot cops. I realize being a police officer is a tough tak, although no one is forced into that career path, but these Barney Fifes seem to go crazy fairly regularly.

    I think the cops actively lied in their description of how the pilot behaved — they should certainly be responsible for that.

    Did he give up any right to sue the powerplant? Seems like they are the ones most responsible for this.

  3. Z

    January 12, 2013 @ 2:21 pm

    3

    That glider is about 560 lb empty, actually (did you mean 250 kg?). But that doesn’t change the appalling incident…

  4. philg

    January 12, 2013 @ 4:48 pm

    4

    Thanks, Z. Let me see if I can fix the title without messing up all of the links.

  5. Howard Jarvis

    January 12, 2013 @ 11:12 pm

    5

    Just out of curiosity how would they shoot down the glider? Heat seeking missiles would not work and radar guided ones may not work too. If they were successful with the shoot they would have a flaming wreck falling on a nuclear power plant.

  6. Gary Drescher

    January 13, 2013 @ 9:58 am

    6

    Although there’s no rule against flying over a nuclear power plant, there is a prohibition (familiar to all pilots) against “loitering” over such a plant.

    The prohibition is nonsensical. Even apart from the inability of a small plane to inflict much damage, a plane trying to do so would derive no advantage from “loitering” first.

    Nonetheless, the loitering prohibition is familiar to all pilots. And if we look at the track displayed in AOPA’s recent video coverage of the months-old incident, it appears that the glider pilot indeed circled once over the plant, rather than merely flying past it.
    http://www.aopa.org/aopalive/this-week/?cmp=ALTW:L6

    So the talk of busting pilots for violating unknowable “secret no-fly zones” is just AOPA agitprop designed to scare aviators into purchasing AOPA’s legal “protection plan”, which is frequently mentioned in AOPA’s coverage of the incident.

  7. Gary Drescher

    January 13, 2013 @ 1:12 pm

    7

    Howard: “Just out of curiosity how would they shoot down the glider?”

    A helicopter with a handgun should suffice.

    But seriously, there’s no evidence that such a move was ever considered. All we have is AOPA’s scare-piece, peddling their “legal protection” service, quoting an airport worker paraphrasing some unnamed cop who probably said something like “He’s lucky no one shot him down”, as uninformed bystanders often remark in such situations.

    In the decade since the various 9/11-inspired aviation restrictions, there have been hundreds of far more serious violations (such as much larger and faster planes accidentally wandering miles deep into charted no-fly zones and approaching the White House). These violations have often attracted fighter-jet escorts, but have never resulted in a plane being shot at.

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