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Sarah Brown told the story of glider pilot Robin Fleming, who was wrongly arrested for an overflight, and our readers were not pleased.
I just received the February edition of AOPA Pilot magazine, and read the article about Robin Fleming (“Breach of Peace”). After reading it, I literally had to put it down and walk away from it. “Infuriating rage” would be an inadequate description of how I felt after reading this article. All I can picture in my head is a whole bunch of Barney Fife deputies from this pathetic Darlington County Sheriff’s Office converging on a tiny airport out of pure boredom and ignorance in order to violate an individual’s rights based on nothing.
There are two lessons I take away from this article:
Little Rock, Arkansas
I am absolutely appalled. I am retired from a large Southern sheriff’s office where I spent my final 12 years as a pilot, so I have some knowledge of criminal, civil, and aviation law.
The bumbling, arrogant incompetence exhibited by law enforcement in Mr. Fleming’s case is absolutely unbelievable and unacceptable and should not go unchallenged. As a properly licensed pilot flying a properly licensed aircraft, Mr. Fleming had the absolute right to be where he was. His right to operate in that airspace was violated, as was his right to avoid unauthorized seizure. The glaring ignorance exhibited by the local law enforcement borders on the criminal and Mr. Fleming’s attorney did him no favors by encouraging the plea agreement to keep Mr. Fleming from filing suit.
I don’t know how it is in South Carolina but in Florida, law enforcement officers are constrained by good faith. Even if they make a mistake, as long as they were acting in good faith they are shielded from civil action. If they act in bad faith—as in gross negligence or incompetence—they are not so shielded.
We cannot stand idly by while our individual rights are trampled, especially in this day and age. This would have been an excellent opportunity not only to punish the ignorant, arrogant offenders but also to educate small-town law enforcement across the country that the specter of 9/11 does not extend to recreational flyers trying to have some fun. The article is a good start but, essentially, you are preaching to the choir.
Roy A. Harkness
Although I’m retired, this is a classic example of why I still carry the highest level of AOPA legal protection possible. In my 35-plus years of being a professional pilot, I used the legal service one time. That one time paid for all the years that I contributed to the program.
Robert H. Johnson
Dogfight: Flight suits
Thanks for the entertaining look at flight suits and those who should or should not wear them. “Dogfight” came just as I was contemplating buying one. Now I don’t know whether to feel guilty or justified.
Why a flight suit? Well, mostly just to wear in the hangar when I’m working around the aircraft. Would I wear it anywhere else? Maybe. But I think there’s a difference between wearing a flight suit as a matter of comfort and practicality (which is the only reason they exist anyway) and wanting to look like “That Guy.”
I certainly wouldn’t put a variety of military patches on it to mislead others into thinking I was something that I’m not. My son was an electronic countermeasures officer aboard a Navy EA–6B Prowler and I wouldn’t want anyone to demean the service and sacrifices that he and his family made. In my eyes, dressing up the “bag” with bona fide military patches is tantamount to impersonating a police officer. But wearing a really comfortable pair of coveralls, which I wore as a teenager to work on my cars and motorcycles, isn’t a crime. And I don’t think I should feel guilty—or goofy—for doing so.
Mr. Twombly has crashed and burned in his dog fight with Mr. Hirschman. Ian, I believe you overlooked the frequency of post-crash fires and only considered in-flight fires. But if, indeed, there are only three fires a year in GA aircraft and fire-resistant clothing is therefore unnecessary, then let’s expand the list of accessories that only add weight and cost to our airplanes, including: fire extinguishers; fire-resistant, nontoxic upholstery; fire-resistant, nontoxic carpeting; fire sleeves on fuel and oil lines; stainless steel firewalls with fireproof grommets; fuel shut-off valves; flight training for handling in-flight fires. If fires are so rare and flight suits aren’t necessary, then why bother with any of those precautions?
We should encourage all pilots to ignore the disapproving looks of Mr. Twombly’s fashion police. Instead, let’s do what is right and prepare for the unexpected, including in-flight and post-crash fires.
Mandan, North Dakota
Both Dave and Ian make good points. And I can agree with both on many of them. I personally do not wear a flight suit. I believe it is mission-dependent. For the Sunday-morning breakfast or a putt putt around the patch, it is not a necessity. But for the Sunday morning aerobatics practice with a parachute on, it’s a good idea. Some people do want to look like Top Gun and that’s OK, too.
I had to chuckle at the duel between Twombly and Hirschman. My GA airplane is a Stearman N2S, Army colors, and I find the flight suit—with its AAC patch, U.S. flag, and military unit patch—a part of the shtick. I’m sorry you don’t approve. Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.
Poplar Grove, Illinois
Thanks, Dr. Sackier, for the “Avoid Crud” article in the February issue. I am 51 years old and will get a colonoscopy in a few weeks. Since returning to active flying a few years ago I have changed my diet and kept my weight in check and am physically more active. I am safely enjoying flying in Southern California.
Flying has made me healthier in mind, body, and spirit. Thank you and AOPA for sharing your medical thoughts and blessing me and the pilots at large in so many ways.
I anticipate John Yodice’s contribution to AOPA Pilot. February’s offering was great (“For Your Benefit”). As a former FAA aviation safety inspector, I continue to be surprised by the lack of regulatory understanding by most pilots, and I am just as surprised—and embarrassed—by the ignorance of most inspectors regarding the regulations, FAA Order 8900.1, and FAA Order 2150.3.
Many inspectors prefer to bully and intimidate pilots during enforcement investigations, rather than follow the regulations and handbook guidance. Yodice’s articles do a great job of reminding pilots that the FARs can protect them from FAA abuse, when understood properly. When viewed from the correct perspective, an FAA inspector’s power rests not with his minimal regulatory authority, but with his prowess at educating and persuading. For example, most pilots are surprised to know that they have every right to politely refuse a ramp check, and that they have no obligation to present any document unless the inspector alleges a specific operation in the National Airspace System.