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Mon, Aug 30, 2010

Yet Another Security Foul-Up: John and Martha King Held At Gunpoint--By Mistake

Yet ANOTHER Threat To GA Freedoms??

ANN Real-time Update, 08.30.10, 0002 ET: ANN has been making inquiries among some of the Law Enforcement professionals we've had the pleasure to work with over the last few years in regards to the Kings' report... Their remarks uniformly conclude that such mistakes are not only common-place but likely to be that way for a while. A number of FLEOs indicate that EPIC (and other security clearing houses like it) is not all that bad an organization but is one that is both under-funded and under-staffed... and as a result pretty tardy in clearing up aged and errant data. 

One LEO noted that the age of the information (several years) should have been a dead giveaway to the SBPD... had they been apprised of that fact (which is not at all clear at this point)... and that incidents like this are likely to be more and more common until these security databases are cleared up and properly maintained. ALL LEOs that we talked to agreed that the possibility of hazard to an innocent party was "significant" and depended solely on the accuracy and amount of data given to the arresting authority and how well those LEOs are trained. -- More info to come...  

Original Report, 08.29.10, 1752 ET: Folks; I don't have to tell you that the plight of aviation is not a healthy one right now -- this industry is dying the death of a thousand cuts... and here's even more stunning evidence that we're all in serious trouble. Two of aviation's best known figures, and experts in virtually segments of sport, general and business aviation were held and detained at gunpoint just 24 hours ago... by the Santa Barbara Police Department -- and based on what was eventually/admittedly false info. Mind you, this was info that could have been proven errant with the slightest effort by those who are supposedly in charge of protecting us... and our freedoms -- LONG before guns needed to be drawn and lives threatened. But; that didn't happen... the system didn't work, and yet another threat to the many freedoms once enjoyed by pilots all over America is making itself known... and its NOT the first time we've heard a story like this.

But... rather than hear us tell it, let's hear it in John King's OWN WORDS...

On Saturday, August 28 at the Santa Barbara Airport, Martha and I were held at gunpoint, ordered from our Cessna 172, handcuffed and detained in the back of two separate police cars.

Later, the Santa Barbara Police told us that a "private company" had called them and reported that N50545 had been stolen and was on its way to Santa Barbara Airport. In fact, the airplane that had been stolen (8 years ago) was a 1968 C150J and the registration for that airplane had been cancelled by the FAA in September of 2005. The registration number was then re-assigned four years later by the FAA to the airplane we were flying, a 2009 Cessna 172S owned by Cessna Aircraft Corporation. It would have taken less than 60 seconds on the FAA website to reveal these facts.

Apparently the Santa Barbara Police took the word of a company they were not familiar with, failed to make even rudimentary checks on the web, confused a 2009 Cessna 172S with a 1968 150J, and on that basis, put us at grave risk by creating a situation that could have been lethal.

The "private company" that supposedly had called the Santa Barbara Police was the El Paso Intel Center (EPIC). In reality this "private company" is shown on the web as a program of the DEA.

The concerning issue to us, as it should be for all pilots, is that apparently nobody is bothering to remove a registration number from the stolen aircraft list when a registration number has been re-assigned. As a result, completely innocent citizens wind up being detained at gunpoint. It appears that there is no system in place to prevent this from happening repeatedly.

We had flown up IFR, utilizing a system in which we gave the FAA our name, address and contact information and announced to the world that we were going to Santa Barbara-hardly, it seems, the way someone flying a stolen airplane would behave.

In many ways the Santa Barbara Police Department could feel set up for this failure, by a system that falsely reported the aircraft as stolen. Had it been a reportedly stolen automobile, they would have verified their facts with the DMV before they took action. But they don't know anything about aircraft. One officer asked me where he could find the vehicle identification number (VIN) for the aircraft. When I said that aircraft don't have a VIN the officer said to me, "Yes they do." I finally realized he wanted to know where to find the aircraft serial number.

They do not know how to check with the FAA, even though it would have taken only a minute on the FAA website. Plus, they don't know one aircraft from another. But they did not allow this to slow them down on this "opportunity" and they plunged ahead, not knowing what they were doing. As a result, they failed to exercise the standard of care that should be required before you put citizens at gunpoint. After all, we expect the press to confirm outside information they receive every time before they go to print. Shouldn't police departments be held to at least the same standard before they put citizens at gunpoint?

Aero-Analysis: ANN is researching the matter and has calls into a number of Government and Law Enforcement agencies. Folks.... this could have been a tragedy... guns were drawn, people were detained, freedoms were denied... all because the system failed to protect those it was created to serve. This is not the first time this has happened and it is only a matter of time before an innocent pilot or passenger is hurt or killed while such tactics are employed in the interests of what we've come to call "Security Theater." More info to follow...

FMI: www.justice.gov, www.santabarbaraca.gov/Government/Departments/Police

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