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John and Martha King will help the Santa Barbara Police develop training for members of the department to help them more effectively deal with incidents involving aircraft. The Kings were detained at gunpoint, handcuffed and held at the Santa Barbara Airport last Saturday after a case of mistaken identity over the N-number on their leased Cessna 172. Martha King told AVweb the chief of police, Camerino Sanchez, called her husband to apologize “clearly and profusely” for the aggressive manner in which they were detained. “He said that the police don’t have any training for aircraft stops, and used the only procedure they knew – a ‘hot stop’ on a stolen vehicle,” she said. The Kings will be providing the department with ideas on how to develop training for officers to intercept aircraft properly. John King also suggested the training could be developed into a national set of standard operating procedures for all police departments. Martha King said the conversation with the police chief was “very cordial.” Meanwhile, AOPA is reporting that the FAA has removed the N-number from the list of stolen aircraft and the National Business Aviation Association is calling for further action that would likely have prevented Saturday’s incident.
NBAA President Ed Bolen said the incident, in which the 172 was misidentified as a Cessna 150 stolen eight years ago, points to the need for review of the way the government gathers and shares information about aircraft. In this case, the N-number (N-50545) was cancelled on the 150 in 2005 and reassigned to the Cessna-owned 172 in 2009. On the aircraft’s first flight, from the factory to company headquarters in Wichita in late 2009, the company pilot was met by police who had been alerted by the El Paso Intelligence Center, a multi-agency intel unit that specializes in gathering data on drug dealers and smugglers. The incident with the Kings was a repeat of that scenario. “We recognize that law enforcement officials need to have a reliable source of up-to-date aircraft information to prevent illegal activities,” Bolen said. “At the same time, we believe the government process for using the data appears woefully inadequate. This isn’t the first time outdated information has resulted in a situation like the one involving the Kings, but we want it to be the last. We’re asking government leaders to look at this unfortunate event as an opportunity for industry and government to collaborate on a solution that will prevent similar incidents in the future.”