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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

05 October 2007

Pensacola and the WAR ON TERROR!!

HELICOPTERS NOT WELCOME HERE!

The plan was to take my friends Gene, Matt, Alisha and her son Dylan for a little helicopter ride over Pensacola around six p.m. last evening. The ship was parked at the Pensacola Airport (PNS), at an operator called Heliworks, the only place that the idiots who run PNS allow helicopters to park. Only Heliworks was closed, because they do that around five p.m. every day. To get access to the ramp, the procedure is to call the airport cops who'll come and let you through a locked gate.
Airplane pilots can access their planes 24/7 through the fixed-wing fixed-base operator (FBO) but helicopter pilots are treated like second-class citizens at many airports, especially Pensacola Regional.

Matt, Gene and I got there a little early. Alisha and Dylan were on the way. In the meantime, Gene, who is an avowed airplane nut, went over by a fence and was taking pictures of the various airliners taxiing in and out. ...That fence being wired with some sort of proximity sensor that alerts Airport Security to a possible breach/terrorist activity.

Almost immediately, a cop showed up. "Sooooo...you three guys hanging around here," he starts in, letting us know that he has accurately and brilliantly sized-up the situation. Then he pointed at Gene. "You wanna tell me what he's doing taking pictures of airplanes?"

I said, "Is that illegal?"

The cop then copped an attitude. "You wanna answer the question?" he sneered, giving me that condescending cop-squint.

I am not a violent man, but I could have punched him in his face. What are we, in fucking Nazi Germany? Matt tried to ease the tension, but I wasn't in the mood for any bullshit. I was being maybe just a teensy bit belligerent.

Now, I understand cops. I know that when they approach a "situation" they have to Take Command and assume that authoritative presence. But they don't have to be assholes about it. All this guy had to do was come up, friendly-like, and ask us what we were doing there? Had he done that I would have gladly volunteered information. Instead, he took the "I may be dealing with some evil-doers, some real terrorists here," approach. "Yup, that camera that boy's holding may be a bomb!"

"I'm gonna need to see some ID," the cop growled, and we dutifully produced our driver's licenses. He dutifully copied down our info "for the record" of course.

About that time, a Pensacola Police (PPD) officer arrived, and one of the two finally asked what we were doing there. I said that I was going to take my friends for a helicopter ride. Period. I've got Command Presence too. (And no, my attitude wasn't helping, if that's what you're thinking.)

"Well, we're gonna need to get in contact with someone at Heliworks and verify your employment," the first cop said. I said, "You do that. Except, I'm not an employee of Heliworks. I just parked my ship here and now I can't get out to it." I may have sounded annoyed, because I was.
So first cop went off, mumbling in a low voice into his walkie-talkie like he didn't want us to hear him doing what he just told us he was going to do.

Now the PPD cop came over. "I'm gonna need to see your, um, pilot's license." I showed it to him. Trouble is, the FAA in their infinite wisdom provides pilots with little paper certificates that do not have our picture on them. In fact, they look pretty fake. And the only images on the certificate are of two bald guys (Wilbur and Orville Wright), to whom I bear a slight-but-not-convincing resemblance. The PPD cop looked at it for a moment, and then asked, "Do you have a picture ID?" I said, "Oh, you mean like a driver's license? Yeah, I got one of those." And then I showed it to him, too. Sheeh.

In the end, they could not verify anything through Heliworks; nobody was answering their cellphones, no surprise there. I thought for a moment that they were going to deny us access. Ultimately, the cops let us through. But they clearly were not happy about people penetrating their security zone.

I'll tell you what, man, the terrorists have won. Since "9/11" they have turned us Americans into a bunch of paranoid scaredy-cats who see terrorists lurking behind every parked car. Did those cops actually think that we were terrorists? That three white guys, a woman and a five year-old boy were terrorists who picked podunk Pensacola to launch an attack on a half-filled 50-seat Regional Jet? Yeah, that would sure send a message to America, wouldn't it?

Give me a break.

Things have gotten so screwed-up. We used to live in a free society, not a goddam police state. Used to be, you could hang around an airport fence and take pictures of airplanes without being given the third-degree by officious cops with nothing better to do than hassle citizens. It is no longer "Innocent until proven guilty." Now, it's "Terrorist until proven innocent." I think small towns like Pensacola all over the country are paying much too much for useless police "protection" in the name of the "War On Terror!" And you know where the money comes to pay for those police, dontcha? Right, your and my tax dollars.

Ah well. A little delayed, we did get to go flying, taking off right at sunset. It was a beautiful flight out to Pensacola Beach and back. Matt, Alisha, Dylan, Gene...and even I enjoyed it in spite of the gauntlet we had to endure just getting access to the ship.

At least we didn't have to take off our shoes, like all of the regular non-terrorist airline passengers inside the big terminal do.

Here's Matt, Alisha and Dylan


And here's Gene



Here's one of Gene's suspicious-activity photos (Hurry, call the TSA!)


And here's Pensacola Beach right at sunset

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yeah Bob, the terrorists have definitely taken away a piece of the freedom we have enjoyed for some time now. I want it back!

Somehow I don't feel too many other countries feel badly about that.

Podunk Pensacola. That's great! :)


kman

Anonymous said...

I think the cop read your blog on the buffet @ BR and was jealous..................MdeM

David said...

Bob, Quick, get a beer or three!!! If anybody need one...
It's a mixed up jumbled up world but they haven't won, yet.
"Podunk Pensacola", good one. Certainly more tactful than I would've been whilst in a six foot hover!!!
David

russell.madden@verizon.net said...

i think some need to justify their existance and act like barney fife, to bad they cant act like andy, having said that i know a bunch that are great guys but the few skew the preception badly.

Daniel said...

Yeah...cops are real world class Aholes...too bad.