Why Did The Feds Seize Claude's Skyraider?

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Well, we don't have the whole story yet but what we do know is disturbing at best and a threat to the individual freedoms the federal government should be trying to protect.

According to Claude Hendrickson, of Bessemer, Ala., the feds simply seized his Douglas AD-4N Skyraider about six months after he flew it here from France, and they're not saying why.

The aircraft is sealed in a hangar at the Bessemer airport and there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of information coming from either Bessemer or the government. EAA is involved a little and says it's a paperwork issue.

Theoretically that should be easy to figure out, since the FAA has already approved the import deal and the aircraft, which is magnificent, has been flying.

AVweb writer Mary Grady contacted the Department of Homeland Security and so far everyone she's talked to claims to have no direct knowledge of the seizure. Seems odd, considering the unusual nature of the item seized. Don't these folks have water coolers to gossip around?

And that's the bottom line with any dealings we've had with the DHS, of which ICE is a part. It's such a powerful agency that it doesn't answer to ordinary people who ask perfectly reasonable questions, such as: What possible national security threat does a 60-year-old warbird present that the hundreds of other warbirds flying daily in the U.S. don't.

For my money, I'd take the P-51 over a Skyraider any day in any kind of fight (or terrorist application) and there are hundreds of them flying. And what about the plethora of domestic and foreign-built jets that fly every day in the U.S. Heck, there's even a privately owned and operated Harrier approved for flight in the U.S.

Is it because this plane came from France? God, I thought we were over that. I haven't seen Freedom Fries for a long time.

Maybe the government has a perfectly good reason for impounding the aircraft and denying Claude his asset.

We'd just like to hear it.

Comments (43)

I would call the Department of Homeland Security a bunch of Nazis but that would be unfair to Nazis. Lets just say they are very fascistic in their beliefs, actions and powers. I also suspect they are more interested in dogma and empire building than they are in national security.

Posted by: Allan Farr | May 21, 2009 4:54 AM    Report this comment

Heavy handed, uncaring and aviation ignorant actions by agencies like the TSA do nothing to help our respect of Government. Where is the due process here? If there is a TSA side to the story lets here it.

Posted by: Jeremy James | May 21, 2009 4:58 AM    Report this comment

There will be more of this type of activity coming.

Waco, Ruby Ridge, and now The Bessemer Spad.

Don't go to tea parties, vote out the fascists and vote in the Libertarians.

Posted by: Dan Nafe | May 21, 2009 6:14 AM    Report this comment

The tea parties are getting people involved. Voting won't work, since the vast majority of those voting for the democrats (=progressive=socialist) are not tax paying and will benefit from socialism The remainder watch the major news sources (left wing agendas) and vote for Republicans who are well left of center and approaching socialism also.

Until enough people get seriously hurt by all this, there will be no change. Flying, gun ownership/usage, and borders are examples of areas being restricted or eliminated in today's "New World Order".

Posted by: Francis Herr | May 21, 2009 7:21 AM    Report this comment

My first question would be are there armaments involved? If there are, simple FAA permission for importing the aircraft is not enough, the importation would cross several governmental agencies including ATF and perhaps the State Department.

Posted by: Woodie Diamond | May 21, 2009 7:46 AM    Report this comment

Dan, Francis:
Perhaps you didn't notice, but the TSA was created and empowered by a Republican administration. Trying to link the deficiencies of the TSA to the results of the recent Presidential election seems ridiculous. (And makes you both come across as raving dingbats, IMHO).

Rather than viewing the behavior of the TSA through the (distorting) lens of your voting preferences, perhaps it would be better to acknowledge that the TSA argument doesn't divide along party lines. I've never met anyone, Republican, Democrat or "don't know", who has a single good word to say about the TSA.

The real issue is that until the TSA is held answerable for the cost and inconvenience it causes in the name of 'security', its behavior will not change. Currently, no TSA official would dare to risk his career by suggesting anything but the sternest 'security' measures - it's completely predictable and understandable CYA.

One of the reasons (I suggest) why nothing has yet been done to curb the insanity of the TSA is that Obama expects that the Republicans will pounce on any changes as being 'soft on terrorism'. So one way you can help effect change is making this a non-partisan issue, so that it becomes easier for politicians to fix.

Posted by: Ceri Reid | May 21, 2009 8:03 AM    Report this comment

The TSA can provide neither Transportation nor Security, but can they ever provide Administration.

As Will Rodgers put it "Be glad you are not getting all of the Government you are paying for."

This is a perfect example of getting all the Government we are paying for.

Posted by: Richard Jenkins | May 21, 2009 8:15 AM    Report this comment

Ceri, the only "raving dingbats" are the fools who continue think that the only two choices are Republican or Democrat. Everyone knows that the TSA was created by the fascist Bush administration and will only grow larger under the socialist Obama administration. It is time to break the cycle, neutralize the rudder and ailerons, lower the nose, add power, regain airspeed and recover from the spin. It does not matter if the spin is to the left or the right, WE ARE STILL IN A SPIN.

"make it easier for politicians to fix" ARE YOU KIDDING? What have politicians EVER fixed? They cannot even deliver the mail on time!

Posted by: Dan Nafe | May 21, 2009 8:24 AM    Report this comment

"You both come across as raving dingbats," Why does the "left" always resort to name calling when confronted with facts? Yes! The Republican Administration developed the TSA, but "IMHO," they did not intend it to work in such a manner.

Posted by: Unknown | May 21, 2009 8:36 AM    Report this comment

"The Republican Administration developed the TSA, but "IMHO," they did not intend it to work in such a manner."

Kinda like Iraq, huh?

(Didn't work out like they thought...)

Posted by: Dan Nafe | May 21, 2009 8:41 AM    Report this comment

The TSA is a scary scary agency. Almost as Scary as The Homeland Defense department! America is turning towards fascism and neither political party seems adverse to this. Is this how it happened in Rome? A slow descent into less freedoms and more laws? The illusion of sacrificing freedom for security? A contradiction in terms if I've ever heard one. The public is so polarized between democrats, republicans, conservatives, liberals we can't even see the real issues anymore. Minor political and social issues are just red flags used to cover up the real issues of loss of civil liberties, a ever increasing loss of income from the middle class and the takeover of our government by corporate powers. The TSA is just one arm of this insidious monster that will strangle our inalienable rights. Eisenhower had it wrong when he cautioned the citizens of our country about the threat from the industrial military complex. It was the industrial complex as a whole that is the danger.

Posted by: Scott Derrick | May 21, 2009 8:46 AM    Report this comment

This ationwide name calling contest coming from both sides has become juvenile (my Dad can beat up you Dad), and like several writers have indicated, only serves to impede any progress on the TSA problem, or any other problem for that matter.

I disliked Bush and am much more in line with Obama, but that does't mean that I was against everything Bush did (just most), and for everything Obama is doing.

The one thing that has changed for me is that I no longer fly anywhere. It's just too much hassle. If I can't drive, ride the train, or float I stay home.

Posted by: Dennis McNish | May 21, 2009 10:53 AM    Report this comment

Thanks for the perfect seque, Dennis. Let's tone this discussion down a little and also recognize the stupid blunder I made in the blog. TSA, while it's part of the Department of Homeland Security, did not take part in the actual seizure. It was Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that has the aircraft under lock and key. Sorry to muddy the waters.
Russ Niles

Posted by: Russ Niles | May 21, 2009 11:58 AM    Report this comment

Arrrgh! The Customs office seized the aircraft?!?!?!? That blows my rant completely away, because even Libertarians believe the Customs Office is a legitimate function of government.

Until the establishment of the Imperial Revenue Service, the entire Federal Government was funded by import duties and tariffs collected by: The Customs Office!

Way to go, Russ! (Just kidding!)

Posted by: Dan Nafe | May 21, 2009 12:16 PM    Report this comment

You ask why???? BECAUSE THEY CAN !!!!

Posted by: Herbert Yuttal | May 21, 2009 1:04 PM    Report this comment

I am weary of reading political opinions. Keep it professional.

Posted by: Donald Dinwiddie | May 21, 2009 1:14 PM    Report this comment

This isnt really a political issue. DHS and its subordinate, TSA, are bureaucracies, just like any other. Their primary goals are to enact and enforce rules, to grow, and to justify their own existance. DHS and TSA were created at an extraordinary time in the immediate aftermath of 911. And given the overwhelming reaction of the country to the events of 911, DHS was given extraordinary power with not a whole lot of oversight or checks and balances. Like Bert said, BECAUSE THEY CAN. Hopefully the tide will turn as DHS enacts and enforces more rules that adversely impact more of the general population, rather than small groups with little political clout, like the aviation sector. Thats when the general populace will wake up and realize that DHS as its functioning now is as big a threat to our way of life as the threat it was created to combat.

Posted by: Mike Wills | May 21, 2009 2:10 PM    Report this comment

Allan Farr never heard of time on station. The SPAD can stay up and ready, for one long time

H.L. Goldstock

Posted by: Howard Goldstock | May 21, 2009 2:18 PM    Report this comment

I agree that the discussion of bureaucracy is not necessarily political. All bureaucrats look gray in the dark. The Spad, however, is a great, great air support machine. It can carry the bombload of a B-17 under its wings and stay on station for many hours. When it rolls in on target its dive brakes allow a truly impressive dive angle and resultant accuracy.

Posted by: Donald Dinwiddie | May 21, 2009 2:56 PM    Report this comment

"The Spad... ...carry the bombload... ...stay on station for many hours"

Indeed, much like the A-10. (That has been "brought out of retirement" a few times, too.

Posted by: Dan Nafe | May 21, 2009 3:30 PM    Report this comment

Amendment IV, US Constitution
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon PROBABLE CAUSE... ...the persons and things to be seized.

Amendment V, US Constitution

No Person... ...shall be deprived of life, liberty, or PROPERTY, without due process of law.

There's all you need to know that what ICE is doing is illegal.
Steven Wood

Posted by: Steven Wood | May 21, 2009 4:51 PM    Report this comment

So, you think we have a Constitution. You think we have people in leadership positions who abide by that fictional document? You like to call people names (e.g., dingbats). Then you must be following their plan to divide and conquer.

Carl, for your benefit, I say again, "Until enough people get seriously hurt by all this, there will be no change. Flying, gun ownership/usage, and borders are examples of areas being restricted or eliminated in today's "New World Order".

Have a nice day and get ready for the knock at your door.


Posted by: Francis Herr | May 21, 2009 7:40 PM    Report this comment


Posted by: JOHN BURGIN | May 21, 2009 8:34 PM    Report this comment

Dear Russ isn't this familiar to the discussion we had about the Allouette helicopters a year and a half ago.

Posted by: PHILLIP AGNES | May 23, 2009 8:23 PM    Report this comment

TSA and other bureaucrats are only acting in their own interest and we need to change that.
in government you never get pats on the back for doing something right, you only get fired when you do something wrong. thus in order to protect their job they need to take every possible action whether it makes sense or not. When I was in the army I was at TACOM the group that spends something like 1/8 of the Army's money. they could not buy a hammer at the local Hardware store because if it broke they would lose their job. It was much safer to require it met all the specs so no wonder that a hammer cost $500 and took three months to get.
when we start to reward government employees for doing a good job 95% of the time and not firing them for one mistake as the American public now screams for, we will get a far more effective and cheaper government.

write your congressman

Posted by: BILL LAWSON | May 25, 2009 8:32 AM    Report this comment

Let's focus on reality - pressure ICE to explain what happened and comply if their reasons are legitimate. Plenty of those wonderful A-1s are in private hands and TSA has no issue with this. I am not defending the Agency, but it won't help anyone to politicize this issue, at least not until the next election. Agreed though, attend Tea Parties. My friends in office pay attention to such things, despite the MSM's attempts to ignore them.

Posted by: Kent Misegades | May 25, 2009 8:34 AM    Report this comment

If everyone believes this to be a political issue, as most posts seem to elude, then we're forgetting how "politics" works. While posting your take on our political situation on this blog may make you feel better, it won't help get the Skyraider back, or help see that this kind of idiocy doesn't happen again. How many have writen their "elected officials" and complained or demanded answers? How many have logged on to the web site created to help this aircraft owner? It's kind of like the old addage about the mule and the 2 x 4, the first thing you have to do is get their attention! Write, call, email, demand an explanation! An issue like this only gets attention when these folks get innundated with calls and letters from their "constituants." Aircraft owners and pilots are frequently considered a small and not very vocal group. That's our fault!
If you don't know who to write or call, find out. Devote a half hour to protecting the right and freedom of owning and flying an aircraft you say is being threatened. Until one of their aides comes to them and says "you know Senator we're getting way too much mail on this," their just going to keep smiling and doing the Miss America wave!

Posted by: Jon Aldridge | May 25, 2009 9:48 AM    Report this comment

VA 155 flew A4D's with CAG 15 when I was in VF-152 in 1956. Shore based at NAS Moffett (real good duty) then deployed aboard the USS WASP(CVA-18.

Among the VA-155 pilots was a USAF Captain exchange pilot. He had the time of his life! Loved the Able Dog and he had flown P-51's. Real good man.

He especially liked sea duty, and the morale of our group.

Posted by: Ed Toner | May 25, 2009 10:59 AM    Report this comment

It is a shame that a man and an airplane that saved so many lives flying "sandy" is being abused by the people whom they saved. Tom Spann , Pilot, Captain USMC, Vietnam 1964-1966

Posted by: tom spann | May 25, 2009 11:21 AM    Report this comment

Settle down, people.

The reason the government is doing such things is... because they can. We let them stomp the Constitution (which protects property rights) whenever they want to. It's not a question of "left vs right" or "Republican vs Democrat." It's a question of "limited, constitutional government vs tyranny."

The tyrants are winning, because they pit us against each other, under the abovementioned labels and with reference to "democracy," and we fall for it every time.

Let's please stop being politically correct, stop giving the government due deference, stop fighting each other -- and start calling this trashing of our Constitution what it is: blatant evidence of the ruling class's unrelenting power grab and war against the people.

(Strongly-worded comments may follow.)

Posted by: Tim Kern | May 25, 2009 11:32 AM    Report this comment

Until a complete disclosure of the facts regarding this seizure is made it is unlikely an amicable resolution can be achieved. Rants may satisfy one's ego, but do little to correct the situation. Legal channels appear to be the only recourse based on the scant information. Who is willing to assist in that effort? I'm willing, but I need more information than just "they took it" to go on.

Posted by: Steve See | May 25, 2009 12:36 PM    Report this comment

Steve See is right. We don't know the whole story yet. I agree with all of you about bureaucrats, politicians, and DHS. I belong to several organizations that are fighting for rights, including AOPA, EAA, NRA, AMA, etc. I wonder how much overlap there is among us? These organizations need money and people. Money allows lobbying and infomercial campaigning. Membership provides money and clout. We are also notorious for not being more active in writing campaigns. Writing your congressman/representative does work even when it seems it doesn't. I read somewhere years ago that studies indicate that for every letter the representatives receive there are 10 other voters who agree. That's power when you can get many people to write. One more thing: about 1/3 of congress flies. That's why DCA is one of the friendliest airports you'll ever fly into.

Posted by: DENNIS J ENGLISH | May 25, 2009 4:52 PM    Report this comment

Some things to think about and remember:

1. This was not done as a political thing, it is a buercratic thinng. Regardless it may take some political intervention to get things fixed.

2. Many bureaucrats have their own biases and will interpert and use their agency's rules to fit their biases.

3. I would hope the owners have already consulted with their lawyers on this. The owner is obviously well enough off to own several warbirds so he should also be smart enough to get a really good lawyer who works in this field.

4. I can't remember the name of some of the Federal Acts concerning private citzens use of ex military (War Munitions) goods, but there are several at least. ten or fifteen years ago war bird owners were worried that every warbird was going to have to be de-militarized, that is have the wings and engine sawed off the airplane because customs and some other agency said that the applicable war Munitions law required that ex-military airplane be De-Militarized when no longer owned by the Federal Government.

Posted by: THOMAS INGLIMA | May 25, 2009 5:28 PM    Report this comment

Continued from earlier message:

5. The business of who owns War Birds is also a hassle since just about anyone who has tried to recover a wrecked or sunk Navy airplane finds the Navy coming on strong saying that they never give up ownership of their wrecked airplanes and as soon as you get it they want it back.

6. Perhaps some member of the EAA, Warbirds of America will have a copy of old issues of WARBIRDS and find out when the big scare about De-Militarising War Birds happened and look into what was done back then to stop that action.

7. Everyone - War Bird owner or not needs to look to see what he or she can do. Writing to your Congressmen and Senators is a good place to start.

8. Remember it is not any particular party or administration that caused this, and most Federal folds are OK. The problem is that many of them simply do not have the same interests as you do, most are not pilots or even aviation people at all.

8. The last thing is that while you cannot (legally) get rich as a Federal employee, you can accumlate power, and the goverment does attract people who like power and who also tend to believe they know what is best for you.

Posted by: THOMAS INGLIMA | May 25, 2009 5:29 PM    Report this comment

The F4 was used in the movie, "'The Bridges at Toko-Ri" in lieu of AD's,that actually did all the work. And they can not let that state secret out...

Posted by: Richard Karr | May 26, 2009 12:37 AM    Report this comment

In Canada, aircraft that is no longer in production qualifies for our new category call Owner Maintenance. Come to Canada and bring it with you. You just can't fly it back there. We need more taxpayers anyways. Get out of there while you can.

Posted by: Brinley Peck | May 26, 2009 5:41 AM    Report this comment

This has nothing to do with politics or whether the DHS or the ICE or the TSA are Nazis or Democrats or Republicans. It's called "the Busdriver Syndrome": Give somebody a small amount of power, whether it's the busdriver telling you to step to the rear of the bus or the IRS auditor telling you to pay up or else, and they will use it to the max.

The state trooper's job is to give you a ticket, not to feel sorry for you because you're out of work and were going a little too fast to get to a job interview on time.

The IRS auditor's job is to find every possible improper deduction even though you took the deduction because you misunderstood the 500-page tax code.

The TSA baggage checker's job is to keep you off the airplane because your name is the same as someone's on the no-fly list despite the fact that you're only five years old.

The FAA ramp-checker's job is to violate you because your sectional is out of date, not to agree that it's a California sectional and you're in New York so what's the big deal.

And the ICE office's job is to impound the AD-4N and scrap it (which, I understand, is exactly what they're threatening to do), not to agree that it obviously wasn't being smuggled into the U. S., since the airplane was openly flown across the Atlantic from France.

It's all purely a function of how functionaries with a little power operate.

Posted by: Stephan Wilkinson | May 26, 2009 10:05 AM    Report this comment

Maybe the government has a perfectly good reason.
Now that is a real funny joke at a time we are trying to be serious :)

Posted by: greg doe | May 26, 2009 8:30 PM    Report this comment

What we're seeing here is the fundamental equation of the government functionary:

LP1 + LP2 ≠ BM

A little man and a little power do not add up to a big man....

Posted by: KEVIN O'BRIEN | June 2, 2009 10:43 AM    Report this comment

Shame on the bunch of youze. The importation of warbirds has had this kind of trouble forever. It will cost alot of time and money to settle. Let's hope the Bird does better than some have.

Posted by: Larry Fries | June 3, 2009 1:23 PM    Report this comment

The FAA does not "approve" import deals.
No wonder he's in trouble...

Posted by: Mark Fraser | June 8, 2009 10:17 AM    Report this comment

Why are people allow to send spam or commercials disguised as a comment on issues related to aviation. This November 25 comment is blatant abuse of AVweb

Posted by: tom spann | November 25, 2010 12:12 PM    Report this comment

Would the site admin please remove the replica rolex trash. Also, maybe it's time for Russ to revisit his sources and post an update on this issue. Some kind of progress, either good or bad, must have been made by now. Is the bird still in limbo? Fill us in Russ!

Posted by: Jon Aldridge | November 25, 2010 9:56 PM    Report this comment

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