Warning: Suspicious Activity May Include Yours
A flyer left by the DHS in an FBO at Hickory Regional Airport in North Carolina makes bullet points of suspicious behavior associated with illegal activities but ensnares some behavior pilots might consider routine. The flyer was left at the FBO about two weeks ago by federal agents and lists suspicious activities that include customers who insist on paying in cash, are vague about their itinerary, fly in with a dirty undercarriage, use self-service fueling early in the morning or late at night, seek temporary hangarage for their aircraft, fly a "worn out" plane with a "very nice" GPS, or travel with "excessive" luggage. The posting listed special agents to contact "if you encounter such suspicious activity." It also offered a reward of "up to $250,000" for information "relating to the transportation or storage of contraband and/or criminal proceeds." The list did also include some activities that might be considered suspicious by a larger group of pilots.
Among the more egregious bullet items were altered "N" numbers" and guards posted around an aircraft. AVweb contacted the FBO at Hickory and was told that the stack of flyers left by agents had since been moved, picked up by pilots, or otherwise taken away. The airport averaged about 111 operations per day for the 12-month period ending July 31, 2009, according to AirNav.com, and about 70 percent of those operations are transient GA. The DHS says organized criminal groups operating in the state are using airports and aircraft to facilitate their illegal activities. Hickory Regional maintains a local aircraft population of about 70 aircraft and, according to the FBO, most of the pilots who keep their aircraft there are familiar with one another.