Tyranny on the Tarmac
by Bridget Geegan Blanton
We often associate the awe inspiring beauty of an American eagle with its wings spread in full glory, soaring across the sky with that heart pounding love of freedom, true freedom; our birthright and our cause. This freedom that we love so dearly, that is so ingrained in us and that we guard so defensively was paid for by countless heroes – a debt we can never re-pay. It is this same freedom that has set our nation on a course of history that while imperfect, has soldiered on as a lamp of liberty whose light is seen by lovers of freedom everywhere. Today, our freedom is under siege. Our liberty is not safe anywhere in these United States from the dictatorial policy approach of the Obama Administration…and the statists wonder why we’re mad as hell?
I happen to be married to a private pilot. There is no place this man would rather be than in the cockpit flying along the coast of southern California or across a magnificent mountain range; taking in the spectacular view. It is freedom, true freedom and he loves to fly. Over the last few months, he’s been grumbling a bit about industry killing ‘user fees’ and draconian security measures whose description as ‘overkill’ is bone chilling in its accuracy. Just as team Obama wants to suck every last penny out of your sofa like the Grinch on Christmas Eve along with your right to freely express your disagreement; the President and his sullen band of tax cheats are clamping down on freedom’s last frontier – the industry of General Aviation.
General Aviation (GA) air fields vary in size and utility from a rugged, survival-sustaining back country air strip in Alaska to a private airport that might facilitate a couple of corporate jets each day. The common thread shared by private air fields without regard to size is that people know each other. The private airfield is the antithesis of a commercial airport, like LAX. As an outsider looking over my husband’s shoulder into this tight-knit community, I have yet to experience a more, well-managed, responsible, safety-minded industry besides perhaps the military. In fact, many of the pilots are former military like my Navy Veteran husband, who share an approach to flying that is characterized by a sharp mind attuned to detail.
One gray and miserable morn, big government is pounding on the door of GA along with one of its most self-serving, inefficient, unaccountable and tax dollar guzzling agencies – the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). They’ve come to snuff out freedom with taxation and regulation for all; in the form of still another Democrat-conceived, unfunded mandate. While General Aviation continues to fight against ‘user fees’; a government bait and switch tactic that unjustly, outrageously and oppressively shifts the operational costs of the TSA at commercial airports to private pilots and private airfields; these same airports must now fend off a newly minted draconian security measure known as SD-08F; an unnecessary and intrusive badge mandate.
How exactly is the TSA viewed? Let’s see…Alaskan writer, Tim Lindrell describes the TSA as “easily the most idiotic bureaucracy of the Nanny State…well known for harassing elderly winners of the Medal of Honor.” A Senate Appropriations Committee during the Bush Administration described the TSA as “characterized by arrogance with disregard of the public’s views.”
In response to a TSA issued statement, warning that “hijacked jets could be used as a missile and capable of inflicting significant damage”, the Bush Administration Dept. of Homeland Security reported that “general aviation presents only a limited and mostly hypothetical threat to security.” Carlton Mann, an assistant Inspector General, added that “a November 2004 report by the Government Accountability Office found that the small size, lack of fuel capacity and minimal destructive power of most GA aircraft make them unattractive to terrorists.” (Ken Leiser, St. Louis Post Dispatch)
Who comes to mind when discussing senseless, over-bearing, freedom-slaying, unfunded mandates legislated for the sole purpose of power and control? Team Obama! They’re working hard to destroy every last private enterprise in America by forcibly instituting unnecessary regulation with zero credibility. SD-08F is a security badge mandate that has been exceedingly stealth in its implementation surprising pilots on the spot with excessive requirements, intrusive personal information demands and extensive security threat assessments all without recourse to refusal. Without the badge, the federal government has been successful in keeping private pilots separated from their aircraft.
Confusion especially within the TSA regarding this over-wrought intrusion into the General Aviation industry is best exemplified by the fact that pilots could be expected to hold a different badge for every air field they might possibly use. How exactly does this level of commercial security affect small rural air fields? In a word, it endangers their ability to operate and remain open. As for the private pilot, it is a gross and unnecessary violation of privacy and private property rights.
Consider the story of private pilot, Grace McGuire, 57. In 1983, McGuire took the first steps towards realizing a life-long dream of flying the route that Amelia Earhart attempted back in 1937 before vanishing without a trace. It has been McGuire’s goal not only to fly the route, but also to prove that Earhart was the victim of inaccurate coordinates. In ’83 McGuire purchased a 1935 Lockheed Electra L-10E, the same model flown by Earhart. She named the plane, ‘Muriel’ after her friend, Muriel Earhart Morrissey, sister to Amelia. The long road to completely restoring the aircraft was thrown off course when McGuire contracted Lyme disease. Then in 1998, Muriel passed away at the age of 98. Recently, McGuire has taken up the challenge once again as her health has improved and financial barriers were lifted.
Recently, McGuire and her national treasure, ‘Muriel’ made a cross country move from the east coast to an airplane hangar at Santa Maria Airport in California to complete the remaining restoration work. McGuire, her restoration project and her life-long dream to fly the Earhart route has attracted media attention and was the subject of a PBS ‘History Detectives’ episode. Unfortunately, the western welcome wasn’t all that warm. Soon after June 1st, 2009 TSA began requiring all pilots at airports with even a minimal amount of corporate jet activity to begin the arduous and invasive process of acquiring a TSA required security badge.
McGuire saw the mandate for what it was… a gross violation of privacy, completely void of accountability and common sense. Her requests for information and clarification were met with arrogance and disregard and she was denied access to her aircraft within her own hangar without extensive, expensive security escorts. While McGuire continued to stand up for freedom in the face of tyranny, the problem of maintaining the engines of her aircraft continued to plague her.
McGuire could not find a single mechanic who would submit to the extensive background check nor could she afford to sponsor them. Throughout the process McGuire was denied responses to her questions regarding the reasoning behind the badge, as well as the extent of personnel who might have access to her private information. In addition, McGuire was humiliated and treated like a criminal when she could manage to raise the funds to pay for the expensive, multi-personnel security team that escorted her to the hanger to begin packing up the plane for still another move away from the now hostile atmosphere that TSA has brought to that private air field.
In a recent phone conversation, Grace told me that she hoped to use her experience to inform aviators everywhere that the security badge is not only mandatory, but is actually quite coercive in nature. In true TSA fashion, enforcers conduct themselves as though they are on a power trip and will stop at nothing to block access to your aircraft if you don’t immediately comply. By refusing to bow to their demands, she lost all rights to access her own private property. Grace’s movements on the private airfield were restricted and in order to step a foot in her own hanger, Grace had to hire out for an army of security escorts.
It is well known that the TSA is basing this intrusion into GA upon a hypothetical theory of a terrorist threat that has been dis-proven repeatedly. Grace relayed to me that it felt as though she was being held hostage by the TSA as exemplified by her complete loss of freedom. Grace fears the gradual disappearance of freedom in our nation if the abusive power of government as dictated by the TSA, is not forced into retreat by ‘we the people’. The effect of this security mandate upon the freedom of General Aviation in America has been devastating as documented by Grace McGuire’s harrowing experience with the TSA.
At time this article is being written, Pilot and Patriot, Grace McGuire is awaiting the arrival of her security escort squad so that she may access her hangar and remove ‘Muriel’, the national treasure and vintage aircraft, in order to begin the journey south to the San Diego Air and Space Museum. It is from this new venue where the restoration work will continue as well as the fight against the attempt by the Federal Government to implement dictatorial control measures at private air fields.
'Whispers on the Wind'
by Bridget Geegan Blanton