Maybe Pogo Was Right

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From the we-are-sometimes-our-own-worst-enemy file comes two tidbits, the stolen Cirrus story and the rise of the "informed expert source."

For some reason, when general aviation is under unfavorable scrutiny, as it certainly is this week in the wake of Austin, Texas crash, we tend to make a hash of things with a second or a third blunder. On Friday, we ran a story about a stolen Cirrus SR22 that was finally corralled into a landing at Los Angeles International in the wee hours. The only redeeming thing about the incident is that it happened when most of the country was asleep. There would be considerably more hell to pay if it occurred in the middle of a busy LAX arrival push.

Details of how the airplane was stolen are still sketchy, but it doesn't look like the pilot—who was said to be incoherent—owned it or was involved with the owner or the airport. If that's true, how did he get the keys? This is not the first time a poorly secured aircraft has been stolen by a casual thief who, in all likelihood, would have been thwarted if minimal precautions had been taken, like locking the airplane and securing the keys. (Not the first time we've written about it, either.)

We have just got to do better than this. We can hardly whine about onerous regulation when we, as an industry, can't do a simple thing like secure our airplanes properly. That means locking the thing and removing the keys and/or securing the airplane in a locked hangar, when possible.

High-profile GA incidents like the two mentioned here draw out the worst in people, even within our own industry. So, like clockwork, my e-mail Friday morning included a note from a PR agent offering to "supply" someone named Pilot DJ Frost as a source to comment on the Austin crash. The agent allowed as how Mr. Frost would explain "Why the general aviation community needs a thorough security overhaul to prevent this sort of thing from happening." He would further explain the "differences between commercial and general aviation safety procedures that would shock most Americans."

I fired off an immediate e-mail to ask Frost just exactly what the hell he was talking about. No response yet. His web site laudably touts him as a hypnotist and fear-of-flying counselor. But whether he knows it or not, his PR agent is flogging him as the sort of push-button talking head source the cable networks are looking for in lieu of actual news reporting. Put him on the camera, evidently, and he'll bring the story alive with shocking revelations about security loopholes at the local muni. Or so the press release says. Kind of ironic, isn't it, that a guy who sells himself as an expert in reducing fear of flying turns right around and fans the flames of fear. That's either a conflict of interest or a killer marketing plan.

Now I am the last guy to insist that everyone in the aviation community adhere lockstep to talking points that tout the industry on only favorable terms. My view is that if what we what we do is truly at odds with the public interest, we ought to own up to it and fix it. But there is no "shocking" loophole in GA security and even the TSA admits as much. DHS's Richard Skinner was quoted widely as saying "general aviation presents only limited and hypothetical threats to security."

Unfortunately, the Austin tragedy wasn't hypothetical, but it also doesn't remotely threaten the Republic. Anyone involved in aviation at any level knows this, including, I would hope, Pilot DJ Frost. One hopes he'll stick to hypnotism. (And also get a smarter PR agent. He sent the same trolling press release offering ugly revelations about GA to AOPA.)

If there's anything shocking, that would be it.

Comments (67)

I 100% agree with the sentiment you expresed. Maybe part of the problem is that GA doesn't do (IMO) a very good job of explaining GA to those outside of it.

(And maybe we should call to the carpet some of the politicians (one legislator from Texas comes to mind) who attempt to politically capitalize from bad events such as in Austin and LA.

On a more general note, President Obama called the years 2000-2009 the "lost decade." I think a more apt name for it would be "the decade of fear." The nation seems to be ruled by fear, and for everything bad that happens, who's to blame? - The Salem witch hunts on an almost national scale. Events like in Austin and LA just play right into that.)

My $0.02.

Posted by: Michael Shebanow | February 21, 2010 4:26 PM    Report this comment

Paul I agree with you. I would like to add some significant criticism to those "news networks", which is really the root cause of the the problem. The problem is that your brethren (brethern as in "journalists") seem to make every attempt to sensationalize the hell out of just about every news event in an attempt to capture our attention to sell advertisement or to push some sort of political agenda (FOX "News", MSNBC, ect.). What happened to the ethical journalist. For that matter what happened to the ethical (fill in the blank for the name of any number of "professions) who ultimately trash their once respected profession for what is ultimately personal gain.

This is why I make an attempt to get my information from multiple sources, and increasingly non-profit news sources. I mostly just the cable news providers for entertainment.

Kudos Michael too. This whole idea that world always has to be safe is simply ridiculous. We as humans have to remember that for the greater part of our existance in this universe, we have been greatly susectable to bodily harm and or death and just get over it. As much I support the general idea of the government creating common sense laws and regulation for public safety, ultimately it is not the responsibility of anyone but the individual to ensure their own safety.

Posted by: Nicholas Riegel | February 22, 2010 6:00 AM    Report this comment

"Decade of fear" is right. We need to recognize that the problem is a concerted effort on the part of BOTH journalists and government to intentionally keep the population afraid and uninformed. By definition, half the population is of below average intelligence and even most of those who don't fall in that category don't understand risk. Read Bruce Schnier about security theater. Sadly, most people think submitting to ever more demeaning and intrusive "security" measures "keeps us safe". H.L Mencken was right "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public."

Posted by: Sat Tara Khalsa | February 22, 2010 8:08 AM    Report this comment

Sorry, I had a typo in Bruce's name. It's Schneier. He's a security consultant and his book "Beyond Fear" is wonderful. He's one of the most reasonable voices (and, blessedly, non-political) on the national stage concerning risk and security. I recommend it for anyone who's interested in the topic of our danger hysteria. He coined the term "security theater" to describe the ridiculous measures instituted which contribute nothing to actual safety but satisfy the idiots that "measures are being taken"...

Posted by: Sat Tara Khalsa | February 22, 2010 8:16 AM    Report this comment

OK, so I'm a foreigner, but the obvious point in the Stack affair to me is that he could have very easily bought several semi-automatic handguns and shot his way into the IRS offices, probably killing a lot more people.
This is only partly about society's inability to evaluate risk logically, it's also about the political landscape making it impossible to place the act in a sensible context. Light airplanes are less lethal than guns, so if you want to limit the damage wrought by home-grown 'terrorists', you'd probably want to think about limiting gun ownership.
Anathema, obviously. Much easier to select a vanishingly small proportion of the population (light aircraft pilots) and subject them to even more pointless regulation. That sort of nonsense is a vote winner.

Posted by: Ceri Reid | February 22, 2010 8:24 AM    Report this comment

That sort of nonsense is a vote winner.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | February 22, 2010 8:38 AM    Report this comment

For unfettered access to my airport hangar at KHND I have to do the following: properly insure & register my car, park in designated areas only, escort guests, wait for the gate to close behind me & don't allow tailgating access. That's all. Yet I see at least half of our based pilots ignore these minimal requirements. I usually get the one finger salute or some foul comments when I insist they follow the rules. These will be the first guys (ladys too) to complain when more strigent security is imposed. We need to take this seriously so let's at least follow these minimal rules, lock our planes and report suspicious behavior.

Posted by: Daniel Hughes | February 22, 2010 10:35 AM    Report this comment

Paul, you're spot on with one thing. Gone are the days when we can leave our front doors unlocked and the car top down when we run into the grocery store.
And it certainly means we can no longer leave the keys to our airplanes hanging on the tac board behind the counter at the FBO or flight club!

We are hearing about this sort of thing more and more. What about the teenage kid who keeps stealing and damaging airplanes up in Washington State? Is 4 the final count? Or is the 5th victim in the que?

I agree, there's little in the way of a federal mandate that will do anywhere close to what a little common sense will achieve if we just wake up and realize this is not the world we grew up in just a few short years ago.

Posted by: Kim Barnes | February 22, 2010 10:46 AM    Report this comment

Responding to Sat Tara Khalsa's comments.

I'm in the computer business. There is an article I read in this month's IEEE "Computer" magazine, titled "Compliance with Information Security Policies: An Empirical Investigation", by Mikko Siponen and Seppo Pahnila, University of Oulu, and Finland M. Adam Mahmood, University of Texas at El Paso.

In that article, the reference a lot of work in behavioral science that notes that THE most powerful control over human behavior is through normative controls - in a pair of words, peer pressure. Their article applies more to computer security, but I think the concept is applicable to almost anything we humans do.

I was also in a class at Stanford's Grad School of Business a few years back. The professor there told a story about study done by one lady in a women's restroom. There was one control variable, that being the presence or lack thereof of another woman milling around in plain sight. She measured how often women washed their hands after using the restroom. The results were surprising. When women thought they were alone, washing rates were ~10%. When someone else was in the room, ~95%. (something like those numbers). The "normative" pressure to behave "correctly" was enormous.

Bottom line, the best security is that we impose on ourselves - if pilots imposed peer pressure on other pilots to "behave" when it came to security, we'd probably get the best result. Much better than punitive or other measures.

Posted by: Michael Shebanow | February 22, 2010 10:57 AM    Report this comment

As a community we have GOT to start doing a better job satisfying the most basic requirements to play nicely with others. The incident in Austin and the rash of fatal accidents in California do nothing but bring scrutiny to this activity. Daniel Hughes got it right, we need to suck it up and do what makes others happy sometimes, even if it is theater. Remember, perception is reality. At a higher level, we must all help improve the public's knowledge of GA, fly quietly and friendly, and gosh darnit, stop crashing so often and avoidably. I've been watching the fallout from the 310 accident at KPAO, my primary airport, and inevitably there are calls to close it with vocal public outcry over "airplanes falling out of the sky" and the "incredible risk imposed" upon the unsuspecting ground dwellers. There is always going to be a group that just doesn't like airplanes/airports and we'll never win them over. But let's stop making it so easy for them. Get out there and speak some good for GA, stick to the facts, offer rides, do whatever you can, but don't be passive. Everyone out there with a pilot certificate has a duty to do so.

Posted by: Rich Prillinger | February 22, 2010 11:16 AM    Report this comment

Sat Tara Khalsa's comments hit the nail on the head...In homage to Eisenhower I call it the media-government complex. Both groups have a vested interest in keeping people afraid and uninformed. The media wants viewers or readers, the politicians want power. I would go one step further and add "angry". This country is infested with individuals and groups who derive power from keeping people divided; whether it's race, economic status, or that person on the wrong side of the abortion/guns/gay marriage issue. If I was education czar, top on my list would be to make schools actually teach critical thinking skills.

Posted by: Chris McLellan | February 22, 2010 11:26 AM    Report this comment

Well said, Rich. Until the Internet I never realized how much animosity towards GA was out there. I just assumed people were either interested or indifferent. The single greatest thing we could do is lower the damn accident rate...I cringe every time I hear someone say that flying is safer than driving...that is NOT true for GA. Pilot training and proficiency is the most direct way to attack this problem. The PR war is twofold. We as pilots have a responsibility to speak up and defend GA, not just correcting misperceptions (or downright BS) in media reports and message boards, but also to present the positive side of GA. I was just on a message board where a poster claiming to be a 30-year pilot and A&P called GA airports "playgrounds for the rich built on the backs of people who don't use them". I can only assume he was truthful about who he was...we don't need more "friends" like that.

Posted by: Chris McLellan | February 22, 2010 11:40 AM    Report this comment

It use to be that when someone was suicidal they just killed themselves. Now these folks in growing numbers refuse to settle for something so modest, and instead seek their self-aggrandising 15 minuites of fame by publically killing as many of their "enemeies" as possible before leaving this world (see "suicide by cop"). They want attention...plain and simple, and are more than willing to sacrifice innocent lives to feed their narcissism and tortured victimology.

As Ceri Reid noted above, Mr. Stack would have been more effective killing IRS employees by walking into the office armed and shooting. But post 9/11, he knen that flying a plane into the IRS office would make a much bigger "splash" than your "run of the mill office shooting".

Hopefully there will be little by way of poltical overreaction to this disgusting event...

Posted by: William McClain | February 22, 2010 11:45 AM    Report this comment

I could not disagree more with Daniel, Rich, Chris. My airplane, while definitely not safer than my car for me, presents less of a hazard to the public at large than my car does. The media likes nothing more than a good plane crash to lead with, but the reality is that rarely does a plane crash involve people on the ground.

I live in San Diego where the SR-22 was stolen. Nobody died. Nobody's life was seriously threatened. But the local media outlets led with the story and spent 2/3 of their broadcast talking about it, lax airport security, etc... How many people were killed by cars in the country on the same day? How many cars were stolen?

Why should I as an airplane owner/pilot be subject to any more security, scrutiny, or regulation than the average car owner/driver when my airplane presents less potential hazard to the public.

I know the risks associated with flying a gen av airplane and chose to assume that risk. Whatever happened to free will in this country?

I agree with the common sense approach of taking reasonable care in locking up my airplane if for no other reason to protect my own property. But I refuse to bow to the media and politicians by willingly accepting over the top security requirements that provide virtually no security from real threats. Before you waste my tax dollars on fences, security gates, and regulations, show me that you are actually preventing a real threat.

Posted by: Mike Wills | February 22, 2010 2:05 PM    Report this comment

If we could eleminate ALL nonhuman powered transportation on the land, water, and air we would be SAFE AT LAST...Wait, suicide bombers could walk, row, or soar among us!!! Homeland Security, are you listening?

Posted by: Larry Fries | February 22, 2010 2:53 PM    Report this comment

Basic fencing and a security gate (if nothing else the fencing helps keep out animals) and locking your airplane are reasonable steps to secure your property. Security crosses the line from sensible to excessive when airline-style procedures are imposed on private operators. I don't think anyone here would support that. No, in a perfect world people would approach things with rationality and perspective, and non-aviators would appreciate that aircraft are not a major threat. Problem is that we live in a society that is ruled by emotion, specifically fear, and that fear is reinforced by our political and our media apparatus. We hear people all the time that are ready to throw their own freedoms and those of others away if it would make them feel safer. Pilots shouldn't forget that we are massively outnumbered. Most people couldn't care less about GA and if it gets regulated away, so what? We can sit here and be defiant and talk about our rights and how wonderful GA is, but if we insist on trying to win every battle, we're going to lose the war.

Posted by: Chris McLellan | February 22, 2010 2:54 PM    Report this comment

I agree that locking your airplane is reasonable. I disagree that the feds need to put a fence and security gates between the general public and public airports. But what bothers me the most about your comments is your willingness to give in to media driven public perception not because its right but because its easy.

An anecdote. Two years ago I was on a long cross country flight in my glider with my ground crew chasing in a truck with my trailer, about 200 miles from my departure airport. Landed at a small airport in central Utah. Me and the glider on one side of the fence and locked gate, my crew and trailer on the other. No FBO, no people, not even a sign with a phone number. This was on a sunday afternoon. Crew drove to the nearest town to talk to a local cop to find out how to get access. The answer was wait until tomorrow when the sherriff was on duty. We ended up dismantling the gate to get the glider on the trailer.

I know for a fact that this was not an isolated incident. Why should I surrender access to a publicly funded airport that I have a right to use just to coddle to fear mongers?

Posted by: Mike Wills | February 22, 2010 3:48 PM    Report this comment

Mike, Because pilots are outnumbered about 500 to 1.

I agree that we shouldn't have to give in to anyone. We're not hurting anyone so we should be left alone. But American society doesn't work that way anymore. Unfortunately self-reliance and free will is an antiquated idea in a lot of our society.

We can just say "No!" to every security measure and beat our chests and talk about our rights to a society that doesn't give a flip. Do that, and I see a future where 600,000 former GA pilots will sit on the ground and brag that we never gave in.

Since we're greatly outnumbered, we deal with an indifferent or hostile media and public, and a greedy government, we need to focus on the battles we can win. Support the alphabet organizations. People gripe about AOPA, but I firmly believe that without them we'd all be flying hang gliders. It means being proactive. Educate local media, get a reporter in the air. Let them know about Young Eagles and Angel Flight. It also means pulling out the BS card when they screw up an aviation story. Advocate aerospace education in the local schools. Speak up in Internet message boards when a poster says something idiotic about aviation.

There's things on which we shouldn't budge. Applying airline-style security to private operators or requiring flight plans for VFR ops. Those are things that would be unacceptable.

It's not coddling. The reality is that sometimes you have to give on one point to gain the greater objective.

Posted by: Chris McLellan | February 22, 2010 4:43 PM    Report this comment

Mike, I understand your sentiments. Words of a reasonable and responsible individual. Unfortunately they are not traits endowed on everyone. I personally like a fence to limit drag racing on the runway, keep the neighbors dog off the runway, keep the neighbors kids from testing how much weight someone's pitot tube can support, etc. I shouldn't have to lock the door to my house but I do. I have over $500K invested in my plane and hangar and it took me many years to get in this position. I go nuts when when someone in our community supplies the media and politicians an opportunity to grandstand and jepordize all of our investments. We can all think of ways to do more damage than that twisted individual from Texas. I think we can see which way the wind is blowing and Chris made some good points. I wish you lots of thermals and better luck on where you land on a Sunday afternoons.

Posted by: Daniel Hughes | February 22, 2010 10:25 PM    Report this comment

I travel throughout the country and often have a lot of free time. I often seek out GA fields near my hotel to go "airport bumming." It is shocking how the mood at airports has changed since 911. High fences, threatening warning signs, and suspicious locals. Try to make small talk and the response is often- who are you and why are you here? Unfortunately much of this has been forced upon us by a few crazy muslims, but any tighter controls and our industry is DEAD. I have a pilot's license and know my way around airports and often feel intimidated. I try to picture myself when I was learning to fly, riding my bike to the airport at age 15. With all the questions and hurdles, requirements to prove my citizenship- I am afraid I would have just turned my bike around and found a hobby that would welcome my participation. There has to be some kind of balance in all this.

Posted by: Unknown | February 23, 2010 1:16 PM    Report this comment

Daniel when you lock the door to your house it doesnt impact my access to public property - its an apples and oranges comparison.

Chris, there are minority groups across this country that dig in their heels and fight when their rights are trampled every day in this country. The right and ability to do so are what make this country great.

I hope the majority of pilots and the various alphabet groups I contribute to dont feel the way you guys do and are willing to simply bow to public pressure because its easy. If so the war is already lost.

Posted by: Mike Wills | February 23, 2010 1:17 PM    Report this comment

Mike, you're mischaracterizing my post. I am not talking about bowing to public pressure because it's "easy". We need to realize that we are a small minority that is under constant political assault from both sides of the aisle. The right assaults us in the name of "security"; the left assaults us in the name of class warfare and environmentalism.

Those groups that dig their heels in and fight do it with advocacy groups of their own, and they don't win every time. The effective ones know when to stand their ground and know when to give some.

We can wish all day for a world where rationality rules instead of fear, but I don't think I'll ever see that in my lifetime. You want a world where people can wander onto an airfield any time they want. I'd love that, but it isn't ever going to happen. If we insist on that, we're soon not going to have any airfields to wander.

To me there is a very clear line between what is acceptable and what is not. A fence and a locking door are passive security measures...not much unreasonable about that. Anything further...background checks, airline-style metal detectors, citizneship papers, are not.

The war isn't lost unless we keep expending our resources on battles we can't win. No war has ever been won without an occasional strategic retreat.

Posted by: Chris McLellan | February 23, 2010 2:21 PM    Report this comment

What makes this country, or any country great is entirely up for discussion, but I would offer that what we are doing for Haiti - by Gov't and GA alike -among countless other worldwide aidant efforts, let alone domestic accomplishments innumerable should be given strong consideration.

In observing the media and non-pilot reactions to the Austin crash I'm happy to report, at least in my orbit, that we don't seem to be falling into the dark vortex of GA negativism with this...there is far more talk here locally of the Ceo and four others, including two dogs that all died last weekend in an EC-135 crash rather than the lone IRS hater in Texas. There's a good blog by Jeff Schweitzer on the Huffington Post that doesn't preach to the GA choir but to the pubic more so that helps point out potential political hypocracy with GA and gun owners, etc. that I would think helpful.

If I thought I could get people to look up off their electronics long enough I would get some smoke oil, set up my homebuilt and skywrite a symbol or letters to promote GA - maybe, 'Hug a Pilot'?

Posted by: David Miller | February 23, 2010 3:04 PM    Report this comment

How am I mischaracterizing your post? You are conceding a battle without fighting it because you're outnumbered. Thats the message I'm getting from you.

I guess we will have to agree to disagree on this.

Your opinion seems to be that if we give ground on this maybe they will go away and leave us alone.

My view is the same as is expressed by most pilots who opposed the LASP proposal. I dont fly a large aircraft so LASP didnt really apply to me, but I object to it on principle and I believe any ground given provides the bureacracy more of a toehold to enact further restrictions.

Posted by: Mike Wills | February 23, 2010 3:08 PM    Report this comment

Maybe so. The last thing I'll say is this

The battle over airport fences was largely lost in the 1980s. 9/11 just sealed the deal. The airport where I did most of my private training had already adopted passive security measures way back then. I just think that adopting an obstinate stance to the world at large on something as relatively uncontroversial as fences will only hurt GA in the long run.

The best analogy I can make is the NRA. The press paints them as being obstructionist on gun issues but the truth is that they often compromise to achieve a greater objective. That strategy makes some people mad, but the NRA is hands-down one of the most effective lobbying organizations in the country. I personally think that in the ideal world I shouldn't need a permit to carry my Glock. But the reality is that concealed carry w/o a permit will never be legal, and holding out for that is a waste of time.

For the record, I did oppose LASP. Mainly because it proposed intrusive security requirements, the other side of the clear line I wrote about earlier.

Posted by: Chris McLellan | February 23, 2010 4:15 PM    Report this comment

Mike Wills is absolutely correct on this one. Whether you like it or not, the battle being fought here is a political one. Do you recall U.S. history over the last 50-100 years, and how minority groups (i.e folks that were outnumbered!) have successfully fought for (and secured) their rights? The "go along to get along" philosophy espoused by some sounds reasonable enough...but it's extremely ineffective. Giving gound on key issues only serves to empower our opponents...and remember, they are certainly not basing their goals and arguments on reasonableness or fact.

I believe the last thing that the flying community should do now is to retreat on anything...we MUST stand firm with zero tolerence regarding these assualts on our freedoms and liberties. If WE don't, then who will?

Finally, PLEASE support AOPA, EAA and the other alphabet groups so that we can continue to harness the political muscle that comes from acting in a unified manner. By standing firm this is a fight we can win!!

Posted by: William McClain | February 23, 2010 4:18 PM    Report this comment

Chris, I will make one last comment and then shut up too. Your analogy with gun control and the NRA doesnt work for me. While this may be an unpopular comment lets compare how many people in this country were killed in the last 10 years with general aviation airplanes with the number of people killed with guns. I think its far easier to make the case against guns than it is against gen av airplanes.

In spite of any perceived threat, I applaud NRA for defending gun owners rights. My perception of NRA is that they never concede any battle. They fight them all. They may not always win but they dont just walk away.

But since I'm not a current member I could be wrong about that. If I were a dues paying member and I found them willingly conceding when they are in the right I would disagree with them just as I'm disagreeing with you.

Posted by: Mike Wills | February 23, 2010 5:00 PM    Report this comment

The crux of our difference is what constitutes a key issue. I spoke specifically of fences, a passive security measure that is no different than what surrounds most property. It won't keep out a determined terrorist, but It sure as hell will keep vandals away from $250k aircraft, as I have seen on numerous occasions.

I have consistently opposed intrusive security measures, including background checks for passengers on private aircraft, flight plans for VFR ops, the expansion of TFRs and the idiotic requirement that I verify my student's citizenship status. My relative non-opposition to airport fences doesn't diminish that in any way. That's not going along to get along, that's picking your battles. We're not going to endsure GA's survival by fighting over fences. We're going to do it by opposing the intrusive stuff and throught proactively educating the public about GA. I think we're all basically on the same side, just differing on where the line in teh sand is drawn. Zero tolerance works for minority groups that were fighting for their basic Constitutional rights, but we can't claim a Constitutional right to be pilots.

And you're sadly mistaken if you think that the alphabet groups don't compromises when they lobby.

Posted by: Chris McLellan | February 23, 2010 5:19 PM    Report this comment

Sorry, i couldn't help replying. I'm really shutting up now.

Posted by: Chris McLellan | February 23, 2010 5:20 PM    Report this comment

You are spot on Chris. Well put! I've been seeing and hearing and not responding for 50 odd years. Why not responding? It's a fool's mission. You said it when you mentioned the "alphabet" groups. Pilots and others poor money into these boat holes in the sky. So what do they get for their dough? A slick magazine full of ads. and self promotion. Not so much with the EAA. However, for the most part they whine as much we do about our decline! There was a time when the money bought a real living lobby. Now it seems our voice is a minor seat at a table full of big cats with loud pockets. I wonder how anybody thinks that Congress, the FAA, or the TSA care what the educated public has to do with anything. AOPA and others do get some lip service now and then but unless they are promoting the position taken by the power base they, and we, are doomed. The TSA and FAA and FBI are going to squeeze every sound-bite they can muster out of the TX murder/suicide. Just remember these are the alphabets that matter and Congress has oversight. MBA says top to bottom works. Send your mail and phone calls to the top first. You can bet that is what the "public" does.

Posted by: Larry Fries | February 24, 2010 12:24 AM    Report this comment


I did not say (nor infer) that alphabet groups never point was that they can effectively bring to bear political muscle on issues due to the size of their membership. It was this political muscle, in coordination with proactive individuals reaching out to their elected representatives, that pushed back LASP and the modification to the 51% homebuilding rules in just the last 12 months. This is a clear model for how to successfully affect the is not perfect, but let's not let perfection become the enemy of the good!

And regarding minority groups, remember that many of the "rights" we now discuss were nothing of the sort when their efforts began. Some were decided as constitutional issues but many were not. My point was the "tactics" that they employed...engagement, never allowing their opponents define the issues, and a firm resolve (i.e. "backbone") when it came to not compromising on key issues. We can learn from history...

I glean from many of the comments here a sense of resignation...that the erosion of our freedoms are inevitable. I reject this belief outright! Ironically, if we collectively seed the field to our opponents (through our lack of involvement and effort) we will ensure the outcome we least desire. HELLO?

Posted by: William McClain | February 24, 2010 1:44 PM    Report this comment

I remember when i was 18 years old in 1968 and taking flight training at a local airport
There was only one instructor at the school consisted of one cfi and something like 4 cessna 150's and 1 cessna 172.
the keys were generley left in the planes and on sundays if the cfi who was in charge of rentales as well wasent there at the office and you had your solo or private etc certificate you merley slipped an envelope with the appropiate amount for the rentel and a note of your intentions for the day and that was that.
the aircraft were excessable 24 7 365 and we never had a problem.
its societey not ga to blame for the thefts of aircraft and other mal doings these days!

Posted by: phillpp ellis | February 24, 2010 11:11 PM    Report this comment

If anyone needs a tweet or e-mail it's Wolfie Blisshitster over at CNN. His off-the-wall asides and provocative questions almost make the Beckster seem smooth! It's an antivoracity, claptrap style that has become the norm with newsreader's producers. Where did unbiased, confirmed, news reporting get lost? Remember those movies and stories of the last 30 odd years that have news broadcasters seducing the world? Is it just my old age, or the thin air?

Posted by: Larry Fries | February 25, 2010 12:35 AM    Report this comment

Since the topic has walked all over the fear mongering done by politicians and the media, especially that part done by so called, "analysts", why don't we cut to the chase and get to the heart of the issue? Was life really so hard when the public airwaves had a fairness doctrine? If media has to run opposing, or God forbid, actual informed views in response to the strident shriek artists they now use they might be a little reticent to jump to the extreme on first bound. There is a middle of the road majority in this country who can have a discussion without the theatrics, we just need to make polite discussion the requirement again, and not the exception.

Posted by: RICHARD GIRARD | February 25, 2010 4:38 AM    Report this comment

a couple of points: perception is NOT reality, Rich P, 22 FEB, it's perception, which can be mis-informed or deluded at least as easily as it can accurately reflect "reality". My second point is to agree with Rick G and lw f on 25 FEB re the media and accuracy, and also Rich P again: we need honesty in public discourse. Fox News is dishonest, and much of the media circus on TV, radio, and the internet media outlets is equally not-honest. For commercial media using public assets, be they airwaves or publicly supported infrastructure, should be required to give equal time to opposing views. After all, we, the people, OWN the marketplace and the commons, and we have the right to control it. That's supposed to be one of the things that we hire government to do for us.

Posted by: Angus mac Lir | February 25, 2010 11:40 AM    Report this comment

Unfortunately, (at least some of) the non-flying public is fearful of general aviation and our "little planes." So it's irrational. Trying to reason with people who weren't reasoned into their position is pointless.

That's why GA needs to just allay their fears -- and not with the rational details -- but with reassurances. Programs like AOPA's Airport Watch are fantastic. How many of us mentioned this when questioned about the Austin incident or in general about airport security?

"Our aiports ARE secure, with rigorous physical security and best practices like the AOPA Airport Watch. All pilots participate and it works!"

That kind of approach will be most successful with the public.

Posted by: BRADLEY SPATZ | February 25, 2010 1:01 PM    Report this comment

Rick and Angus: The Fairness Doctrine? YIKES! You actually want government bureauocrats deciding what you can and cannot see and hear? NOT ME! Living in a free society is messy. You are likely to hear things you disagree with or even viscerally dislike. Some things will even be inaccurate from time to time. But for the life of me I don't see how greater "fairness" results from the government (or anyone else) limiting or regulating speech! The free marketplace of ideas should choose winners and losers, not me or you (and certainly not the government!).

When it comes to media and information, YOU get to decide who, what, where, when and for how long you watch/listen. There are lots of choices, and YOU decide who you agree with and trust, and who's accurate and who's not. Despite the progressive belief to the contrary, everyday people are actually quite good at doing this.

Freedom requires that we all TOLERATE those ideas and opinions with which we disagree, NOT silence or limit them! But if you really insist on silencing your opponents I say "Hail Comrade" and suggest relocation to a sunnier Cuba.

Posted by: William McClain | February 25, 2010 3:02 PM    Report this comment

CNN = Continuous Noise Network
FOX = Fear, Obfuscation, Xenophobia

What ever happened to Walter Cronkite actually reading the actual news? So much better than the personality cult "opinions about the news" shows we have now.

TSA = Theatre of Security Agency
DHS = Department of Hysterical Scrutiny
CBP = Certified Borderline Paranoiacs

I met an ex-marine recruiter in 2006 who got hassled crossing back in with his family after visiting Niagara Falls, because he brought everyone's passport but his own. Seems active military ID doesn't cut it!

Posted by: Lance De Foa | February 25, 2010 3:08 PM    Report this comment

With enthusiasm I second what Mr. McClain states! Constantly I read in these blogs about 'the TSA jerk' or blaming gov't, media, school boards or anything at all, when none of the above mentioned have any inherent power at all! It's all referred to them by us thru myriad ways! You don't want to use your free will, or ability to 'perceive' your reality, (and how else does one determine reality except thru perception? geez, more hair splitting) then I suppose you are doomed. Taking from what Mr. McClain says a little further I submit it's all about personal responsibility and using your awareness the best you can. Use what you got, boycott, write, suggest ideas - and try and accept the nuances of life that are beyond our control. Don't mean to rant but this really seems to stay in the schoolyard with the anger and mockery of outside entities like the unsigned post above describes.

Posted by: David Miller | February 25, 2010 4:02 PM    Report this comment

I'd rather have government bureaucrats, whom I can influence through my reps in government, than corporate bureaucrats ANY DAY OF THE WEEK. We do not live in a "free" society, we live in a society that's sold on the block every day to bidders who have their own interests in mind over the public good.

As has been observed already on this blog, the bell curve has two tails. I know which side I'm on. I also know that being smart gives no immunity to brainwashing. I do trust people who are careful for community more than I trust people who are after themselves first. I'd be happier if we had a publicly watched method for protecting public discourse from liars, as some of us are not smart enough to recognise BS when it's blown in their faces. (You'll note that I'm not insisting that liars be precluded from spewing, just that their outlets be required to give a counter-point a chance to speak in rebuttal. I'd even let YOU, amigo, a voice. Pass the margaritas while you're up there).

As for the ex-gyrene's comments, right on! I agree with you on all counts. Also, I've made the same mistake, and I work with this silliness as my day-job.

Boy, I feel safe...

Posted by: Angus mac Lir | February 25, 2010 4:25 PM    Report this comment in the movie, Trains, Planes, and Autos, YOU'RE GOING THE WRONG WAY!

Each person in society has their own criteria for what constitutes a 'free society' and that will never, ever change. Where's the line, the qualification, how much, and to whom? Endless concepts. If each person became aware that THEY are individually free, then on a whole you would see it reflected in society. Refer to relativity.

And you are safe if you think you are safe. Trust no one but yourself. The ex-marine forgot his passport, and he was 'hassled?' Refer to personal responsibility and attitude.

Uncle. And please lock your plane.

Posted by: David Miller | February 25, 2010 6:29 PM    Report this comment

Angus My Man - I feel compelled to point out a few things. First, when government controls media content we have NO choices! Second, if you don't like a company or their products then stop using them. You have choices. Third, you say we don't live in a free society, but I cannot name a single country that equals the freedom of the press, speech and overall information flow that we enjoy in the U.S. Can you? Fourth, if all sides of an issue must be presented every time the issue is discussed then by definition you are limiting the information that can be provided (print media has physical space limits, broadcast media has time limits, and so on). But of course, that is the entire point! Those on the left dream of reinstating the Fairness Doctrine to limit and control conservative voices and views. You see, its "unfair" that Air America in the talk radio space, MSNBC on cable TV and other far left purveyors have marginal (small) audience (AA went bankrupt) while Fox News (the liars according to you), conservative talk radio, Natinal Review (magazine) and other conservative voices are thriving with all-time-high ratings. Progressives can't accept that their positions are what people don't agree with so they want to use the power of government to level the playing field...something they can't achieve on their own in the free market.

Posted by: William McClain | February 25, 2010 10:08 PM    Report this comment

Dave, William, solid postings but my gut says you haven't convinced Angus. Curious thing is I think we all want the same thing. Safe, organized and proficient GA without further government intrusion, real personal responsibility and some honesty, not fairness, on the information highway. It's up to us.

Posted by: Daniel Hughes | February 27, 2010 1:46 PM    Report this comment

Hear, hear! Thanks, Daniel. You're quite right on all your points.

Posted by: Angus mac Lir | February 27, 2010 2:31 PM    Report this comment

I suspect that the FAA, FCC, and TSA have evolved because "we" can't be trusted to do the right thing. And "we" will never agree on what the "right thing" is. At least "our" government gives us a chance to comment on regulations. For the most part it also responds to the comments. What elese do you want? And, futher more, how much power do you require? All of our political passions aside, somehow we'll reach the middle-grownd and move on. Ain't it GRAND?

Posted by: Larry Fries | February 27, 2010 2:43 PM    Report this comment

LW: Wish you had a more positive perspective...but the fact is most people do the right thing every day. If they didn't then our nation would have completely broken down long ago. The vast majority of people don't steal stuff in stores, or cheat their customers or take advantage of others. Law enforcement and regulatory folks are unforunately needed because a small percent of people disregard the rules. Let's keep things in context here...

Remember, in the U.S. government represents the people, not the other way around! We do not rely on government "giving us a chance" to comment, we have the right and responsibility to comment and also to limit overreach and intrusion. Many seem to have forgotten these truths, while others seem intent on undermining them further.

George Washington said that "when government expands liberty contracts", and man did he have it right! I encourage every stakeholder to engage and participate in the process, and demand that our government be responsive not intrusive!

Posted by: William McClain | February 27, 2010 5:02 PM    Report this comment

>>responsive not intrusive!

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | February 27, 2010 5:41 PM    Report this comment

W.>> As I said, we can't even agree on the word "positive"! I thought I was very positive! However if pounding the desk and thrashing the arms is required to prove patriotism, and voracity maybe you should consume a little less Glen Beck and understand it's NOT most people that pose a threat. A look at French history shows what "liberty", unchecked, can lead to. If you need context; over reaction and knee flex responce is hot headed and nonperductive.

Posted by: Larry Fries | February 27, 2010 5:59 PM    Report this comment


Thomas Paine said "that government is best which governs least". Of course government plays an essential role, but limited government always serves the people best.

A bureaucracy has yet to exist, be it government, corporate or any other, that did not become less effective and efficient as it became larger. So when you see government expanding you can correctly assume its efficacy will diminish.

My point regarding regulatory intrusion on our ability to aviate is that we really have a high level of input into what happens if we engage and participate in the process. Just bums me out to hear so many voices effectively throwing in the towell and forgetting who works for who!

Posted by: William McClain | February 27, 2010 6:40 PM    Report this comment

LW: You said "we" (as in people collectively) can't be trusted to do the right thing", and forgive me, I took you to mean what you said. If you feel that this is a positive view of people then I am not really sure what to say. I merely pointed out that it is a minority of folks that can't be trusted, with the implication that blaming all people for the failings of a few is inaccurate and unfair. That was the context I was referring to.

Not sure what you mean by pounding and arms are rather subdued. And I did not mention patriotism in my comments, but rather spoke to the recogntion that we have the ability to limit the government from intruding into our lives and activities if we choose to.

I would think it clear from my comments (noted above) that I already understand most people do not pose a threat...

Finally, you seem to be implying that the French Revolution was the result of "unchecked" (i.e. an excess of) that correct? If so, you certainly have an "interesting" perspective on history! Power to the People!!

Posted by: William McClain | February 27, 2010 7:11 PM    Report this comment

W.>Thanx for the reply. If I wrongly sensed your words, I sencerely apologize. As for the French Revolution, don't you think a little too much time and blood was involved? I do personaly think the ultra right wing and left wing, self appointed, spokepersons make fools of themselves most of the time. I consider myself a liberal conservetive bomb throwing pacifist. Too much passion, too little conviction.

Posted by: Larry Fries | February 27, 2010 8:12 PM    Report this comment

We did not end up with the Constitution by edict but by vigorous debate and compromise. If everyone had adopted William’s point of view since the creation of America then we may not have experienced the incremental loss of freedom that we have. If EVERY citizen had pushed back whenever the government felt the need to push we would not be in the fix we are. The government would be smaller, accountable and responsible because most people can be trusted to govern themselves. I agree with Paul that it would be nice to have honest banking oversight but it is imperative that citizens not relinquish their responsibility of overseeing the overseers. Setting aside Beck’s theatrics if we think his positions, or William's, are so radical then maybe that is an indication of how far we have slipped. And where exactly do we stop? You can rant about government or corporate excess and greed but is that caused by too much citizen involvement or too little? This posting may be off point but if we fear FAA enforcement or the media more than our own personal critique then that, in my opinion, is a serious problem. Here’s another thought, when was the last time you received a government communication, DMV, assessor, IRS, etc., without a direct or veiled threat being included in their “request”? And was all that bloodletting in the French Revolution too much freedom or another form of tyranny?

Posted by: Daniel Hughes | February 28, 2010 12:56 PM    Report this comment

>>when was the last time you received a government communication, DMV, assessor, IRS, etc., without a direct or veiled threat being included in their “request”?

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | February 28, 2010 1:38 PM    Report this comment

Well put, D. The Yin-Yang, chicken-egg, full-emty etc. questions are fun and very human. Maybe it's the downfall of our form of government too. Business works because you can have a clear objective and a plan or two. Unless there is strong leadership the chaos of the "deadly sins" results in what we have in DC today. The Fox/MSNBC theater should remind us to keep our eyes on the prize. The fringe's distractions provide drama (comedy) but all too often grab the media attention. So we rely on the cooler and diverse heads of government to reach sensible solutions for us. It's no wonder that most learned people thougt, and think ill of our parochial approach. I think this posting is closer to a realistic view of our time than not. Given the vast internal and external threats to our personal and collective existance, the fractured governing body and confused electorate are prime examples of the "Pogo" effect.

Posted by: Larry Fries | February 28, 2010 2:20 PM    Report this comment

Paul - I think you're a good guy, and you do a great job at AVweb! But your comments are indicative of many people that believe the role our government now plays in this country is basically appropriate and necessary, but maybe not as effective as it could be. Based on this believe it is easy to dismiss those who voice concerns about government expansion and loss of liberties as being extreme. But if you have time to do some deeper research on this I believe that the facts might well surprise you and your attitude might change.

One of your comments troubles me though. Do you really believe that the serious concerns many people have about government overreach include DMV enforcement? If you do, then with all due respect you should REALLY do more research on this subject before you opine further!

My concern is that your comments sound like a "straw man" argument intended to distort the issue and marginalized those with legitimate concerns about the role that governemnt should play in our lives. I hope this is not the case, so perhaps you would be so kind as to clarify this comment further...

Posted by: William McClain | March 1, 2010 3:38 AM    Report this comment

Got it. Because I have views that don't align with yours, I need to do "further research" before opining further after which I will presumably agree with you.

I'll trade you one straw man for a red herring.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | March 1, 2010 4:37 AM    Report this comment

Your right Paul, this can be debated endlessly, so, my last word. I don’t know what to say to that. I’m sure control waxes and wanes but I don’t want to accept the status quo because it could be worse. I think we should all get involved because it could be better. Much like when a politician says, “you think your taxes are too high? You should live in England.” I love the UK but I live here and yes, my taxes are too high. Downright oppressive. Also, I can assure you I won’t be slitting anyone’s throat over SS or Medicaid. I’m one of those guys who paid the maximum, or else, for 30 years but will receive little. Besides that, I think the politicians have already spent the money on some other worthy cause.
Understand, I’m not anti FAA. But I like to think I adhere to and exceed the regulations because they make sense not because of enforcement. Other than a few dolts, I am impressed with the overall professionalism I encounter within its ranks. I like to have my passengers listen in so that, contrary to what they hear on the news or read, they can experience first hand how well the system works. Great discussion, thanks.

Posted by: Daniel Hughes | March 1, 2010 11:19 AM    Report this comment

the format on my post got a little tweaked. I had written ... my last word. I don't know what to say to that. .....

Posted by: Daniel Hughes | March 1, 2010 11:23 AM    Report this comment

tweaked again? I had written ... my last word. "you want to see repressive government?". I don't know what to say to that. .....

Posted by: Daniel Hughes | March 1, 2010 11:27 AM    Report this comment

Paul, from your response I beleive that you misunderstood my post. We need to distinguish here between facts and opinions. I recognize that we have different views...I respect that and feel its beneficial to discuss and debate differing opinions on their merits. However, by implying that DMV enforcement is a bona fide issue with big-government opponents you have misstated the facts, and done so in a manner that distorts the true concerns of these folks. Perhaps this is your honest perception of where these people are coming from, but its still factually incorrect. That is why I invited you to look into the matter further...

Its entirely possible that you and I might look at the same facts and draw very different conclusions and opinions. That's what makes life interesting. But when I see facts misrepresented in the context of bolstering an opinion this is where I get concerned, and frankly, when I call the person on it.

Lastly, regarding your "red herring" comment, I invite you to point out where you believe I've misstated FACTS in order to make my case.

Posted by: William McClain | March 1, 2010 12:04 PM    Report this comment

In suggesting that I do further research before offering any opinions you are defacto refusing to confront those opinions which have been offered. It is a distractive form of argument, hence, a red herring.

Point is, for everyone, there is an inflection point where government becomes overbearing. Someone made the grand generality that you don't get anything but threatening communications from from the government. I gave an example to counter that view. That's a specific.

I have been following the emerging anti-government movement with some interest. It is noticeably rich in generalities--let's get the constitution back, resist burdensome government and so on--but light on specifics.

As a radical independent, I'm a kneejerk reactionary against people who are long on ideology but short on solutions.

Closing the circle, I wonder if Mr. Stack was one of the former.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | March 1, 2010 12:37 PM    Report this comment

Paul, my "suggestion" to you was only part of the post. I continued by pointing out why you should do further research - the very specific factual error you made in support of your position. So let's be very clear here- I did not refuse to confront your opinions, I direcly challenged them on the basis of the rationale you used in support. So the "distractive argument" dog won't hunt, and hence, neither will the red herring!

I am interested in thought provoking discussions on these important issues as they pertain to aviation. But I don't feel that insisting on an "honest discussion" is asking too much. And that can't happen if participants are missinformed as to the facts. I would hope we can agree on that, and stop playing these games...

BTW, if you are really interested in learning about substanative solutions for the government-overreach-mess we're in there are lots of good resources out there (but research might be involved). If you need a jumping off point you might begin with Newt Gingrich's website (


Posted by: William McClain | March 1, 2010 4:30 PM    Report this comment

Excuse me, but I haven't made a factual error. I stated an opinion. Just because you don't agree with it doesn't mean it's in error. If your idea of "research" is logging on to an ideological site that tilts right, so be it.

Ideas come from all corners of the spectrum. (Newt even had a few good ones...)

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | March 1, 2010 5:04 PM    Report this comment

Paul, I know I said I was done but … "Someone made the grand generality that you don't get anything but threatening communications from the government" …. this is not what I wrote. It was actually a question that, like or not, would get agreement more often than not.

Also …. "I have been following the emerging anti-government movement with some interest. It is noticeably rich in generalities--let's get the constitution back, resist burdensome government and so on--but light on specifics" … Paul, this just isn’t so unless you only read the posters. Specifics and ideas abound at the Heritage Foundation, Freedom Center, Newt, etc. I'd have to say your not following things close enough if you feel it's simply an anti govt. movement.

Posted by: Daniel Hughes | March 1, 2010 6:40 PM    Report this comment

I'll take it under advisement. Thanks. That's the last word and you get it.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | March 1, 2010 7:22 PM    Report this comment

It was Daniel Hughes, not Paul, who said, "Here’s another thought, when was the last time you received a government communication, DMV, assessor, IRS, etc., without a direct or veiled threat being included in their “request”?" Paul provided an example.

Just to bring this thread back on topic, I find it pretty ironic that in my last post on this thread Daniel was all about compromise. Fencing placed around your local gen av airport was an acceptible compromise to more burdensome security measures. Now he's anti-big government?

Posted by: Mike Wills | March 1, 2010 7:34 PM    Report this comment

Your right Mike, I believe I am anti-big government but it still makes sense to me to use the fence and reasonable security. I don't think it's inconsistant. You may take me to task on that but I don't consider it much of a compromise. I sill think Chris had some good points and I didn't get the impression that he, nor I for that matter, advocate rolling over. Frankly I agree with most of your sentiments but not the fence. That said, you should be able to easily get your glider off any airport anytime without dismantling a fence.

Posted by: Daniel Hughes | March 1, 2010 8:52 PM    Report this comment

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