Whose Airspace Is It? When the media gets it wrong.

Submitted by Charlton Stanley, guest blogger
(Otteray Scribe)
ImageThis is my first post as a Guest Blogger. I am honored and humbled to be invited to post at one of the most respected legal opinion blogs on the ‘net. I will try to maintain the high standards already set by the heavy hitters already posting here. Thank you, Professor Turley, and all the other guest bloggers and regulars here. I have been posting here and on other blogs under the username Otteray Scribe. Otteray is the Cherokee name for the Blue Ridge Mountains where I live. When in the fourth grade, I learned about the scribes of old Europe. The idea of someone actually having a job writing things down for people who were illiterate fascinated me. My username combined two of my favorite words. Blue Ridge writer. That’s me.

Just a bit of background about me. I am a forensic psychologist with about 41 years of trying to get it right. I am passionate about my work, aviation, photography and my family. Other interests include law enforcement and corrections. In future stories, I plan to write about all those subjects. Hopefully, over the past four decades I learned a few things worth sharing.

For my first effort, I wanted to focus on how people who know little of aviation get a news story, and then mangle it into something that it is not. This is not new. There was a time not long ago when any kind of general aviation airplane crashed, it was described in the press as a, “Piper Cub.” Cubs are seldom seen these days, so that descriptor has evolved to a, “small Cessna.” Perhaps this story will set the record straight, and tamp down some of the ‘Hair-On-Fire’ hyperbole about flight restrictions over the oil spill in Arkansas. This environmental disaster is personal to me. At one time, I lived and worked only a few miles from Mayflower, and have flown in and out of the Conway airport many times.

Misinformation, hyperbole and conspiracy theories have been rampant about the flight restrictions around the oil spill at Mayflower, Arkansas. The problem started when local news media referred to Exxon-Mobil getting the FAA to establish a “no-fly” zone around the oil spill. To be clear, this is a completely different issue than what is happening on the ground. Links to some of those stories are at the end of this piece.

By way of background, Mayflower, Arkansas is a small town in the middle of the state, about halfway between Little Rock and Conway. It is just south of 6,700 acre Lake Conway. Some were claiming that local drinking water comes from the lake. It does not; this lake is not a reservoir for potable water. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission built Lake Conway as a dedicated fishing and wildlife area in 1948. On March 29, the Exxon Pegasus pipeline ruptured at Mayflower, spilling thousands of gallons of oil into the south end of the lake and parts of Mayflower. The oil poses a major risk to wildlife and fish in and around the lake, as well as local residents. Not surprisingly, this became a major news story locally, and as the news spread, so did outrage. As the outrage grew, conspiracy theories grew almost exponentially.

Exxon-Mobil said they would take responsibility for the cleanup. That is normal practice. The state of Arkansas does not have the equipment, expertise or funds budgeted to tackle a major oil spill cleanup. The “Pottery Barn Rule” applies: You broke it, you buy it. As the cleanup crews arrived, the supervisor on the scene asked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) around the cleanup area. The situation in Mayflower warranted a TFR under the provisions of the law, so it was granted by the FAA.

That action fueled more conspiracy theory stories and blogs around the internet. How dare the FAA let Exxon-Mobil establish a “no-fly” zone over the spill so they could hide their misdeeds? Really? Part of the problem arose with the official FAA NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) shown below:


Bloggers and reporters jumped on the fact that an Exxon-Mobil supervisor, Tom Suhrhoff, was placed in charge of operations and flights in and out of the TFR. None of the outraged bloggers and media seem to have bothered to look up the applicable FAA regulation under 14 CFR § 91.137:

 (b) When a NOTAM has been issued under paragraph (a)(1) of this section, no person may operate an aircraft within the designated area unless that aircraft is participating in the hazard relief activities and is being operated under the direction of the official in charge of on scene emergency response activities.

The graphic is part of an aerial navigation map called a Sectional. The FAA has marked the TFR onto the Sectional, represented by the red circle with an R in the center. That means “Restricted.” The yellow mass at the lower right of the map is the congested area of Little Rock. Conway is to the upper left.

Contrary to what the blogosphere and some in the media seem to think, a TFR request is common practice. It does not mean that somehow Exxon-Mobil has taken control of the FAA. Some have protested that the airways are “public.” Yes, and so are highways, but both airspace and highways are regulated. A pilot cannot just climb in an airplane and go anywhere at any time, any more than one can drive on the wrong side of the road. The FAA controls airspace and makes rules for its use. When a private organization requests a TFR, a coordinator at that location is required. Since Exxon-Mobil is doing the cleanup, they must provide someone to direct traffic inside the TFR zone. In this case, that supervisor is Tom Suhrhoff. Permitted air traffic is mostly survey aircraft and helicopters. It is not the FAA’s job to set up a control tower at Mayflower, Arkansas

The company manager on the ground has the responsibility to inform the FAA when they are finished with flight operations in the TSA. However, in the event of a situation such as described in 14 CFR Section 91.137(a)(3), the FAA may (and probably will) keep the TFR in place so there are not two dozen airplanes trying to occupy the small airspace at the same time. Aerial rubberneckers are just as much a hazard as those who ogle motor vehicle wrecks and don’t pay attention to where they are going. Here is what 14 CFR Section 91.137(a)(3) says:

3. Prevent an unsafe congestion of sightseeing aircraft above an incident or event which may generate a high degree of public interest (14 CFR Section 91.137(a)(3)).

Once the FAA determines it safe to do so, the TFR will be revoked.

This brings us to the second part of this story: The alleged “no-fly” zone. It is not a “no-fly” zone. Under the authority of Title 14 CFR § 91.137(a)(1), here is the TFR instruction to pilots:

NOTAM Number : FDC 3/8699
Issue Date : April 01, 2013 at 1412 UTC
Location : MAYFLOWER, Arkansas near LITTLE ROCK VORTAC (LIT)
Beginning Date and Time : Effective Immediately
Ending Date and Time : Until further notice
Reason for NOTAM : Temporary flight restrictions
Type : Hazards
Replaced NOTAM(s) : N/A
Pilots May Contact : MEMPHIS (ZME) Center, 901-368-8234
Center: On the LITTLE ROCK VORTAC (LIT) 319 degree radial at 22.4 nautical miles.
(Latitude: 34º58’55″N, Longitude: 92º26’42″W)
Radius: 5 nautical miles
Altitude: From the surface up to and including 1000 feet AGL
Effective Date(s): From April 01, 2013 at 1412 UTC Until further notice
No pilots may operate an aircraft in the areas covered by this NOTAM (except as described).
ARTCC: ZME – Memphis Center
Title 14 CFR section 91.137(a)(1)

Under the heading “Airspace Definition,” the TFR is a ten nautical mile diameter circle (11.51 statute miles). Altitude restriction is from ground level up to and including 1,000 feet above ground level (AGL). The statement that no pilots may operate in the TFR “except as described,” refers to aircraft that have proper credentials and approval from the ground supervisor to enter the restricted airspace.

At the request of news media, the FAA is granting waivers for entering the TFR, provided they are credentialed, and coordinate their flights with the supervisor on the ground. That will keep congestion under control and maintain in-flight separation of aircraft, similar to that around any airport. Safety for everyone is paramount. No one wants to see a TV station aircraft have a mid-air collision with another media aircraft or helicopter full of cleanup workers.

Part of the clamor in the blogosphere has been the claim of keeping news media so far away they cannot see what is going on. No one but pilots appear to understand just how low a thousand feet is. A thousand foot clearance is just high enough to keep the helicopter operations zone clear of rubberneckers. If one wants to understand this so-called “no fly” zone’s 1,000-foot limit, go to your nearest general aviation airport and watch planes in the traffic pattern. The standard recommended pattern is 1,000 feet. A ground observer watching a plane go over at a thousand feet will swear they can count the rivets.

Any competent photographer knows that with a zoom lens, a view from even two thousand feet tells you all you need to know. Furthermore, images shot from a higher altitude give better wide shots, aiding understanding the extent of the spill. Images from too low an altitude do not give the bigger picture. If a worker has a bald spot on his head, that’s not newsworthy.

On a related note, I read several blog comments proposing sending camera-equipped radio control aircraft into the TFR to get surveillance pictures. This is a bad idea on many levels. A remote control model must not operate over 400’ altitude, stay line of sight with the operator, and not interfere with other aerial traffic. I plan a future story about scofflaws using radio control models illegally. They are jeopardizing a popular hobby.

Lest someone think I am giving Exxon-Mobil a pass, think again. The situation on the ground at Mayflower is ugly. The Faulkner County Sheriff’s Department and Exxon-Mobil Security have allegedly threatened reporters with arrest. Reporters doing interviews on private property, with permission, say they were threatened with arrest if they did not leave. Another report here. This is a developing story.

103 thoughts on “Whose Airspace Is It? When the media gets it wrong.

  1. Dr. S.,

    An excellent first at bat. Welcome to the team and I look forward to all your future contributions. We’re all going to be a lot richer for them.

  2. OS,

    Congrats on your first post as a guest blogger.
    You will be an outstanding addition to the already excellent group
    of guest bloggers at Turley blog.

    As you said, the restriction around the oil spill is from the ground
    up to 1000 feet. Most, (but not all) prudent pilots like to keep at least
    a thousand feet between their airplanes and the ground – just common

    Having said that, I do feel that Exxon would like to control the situation,
    as much as they can, so that the MSM doesn’t get too much info for
    public consumption.

    Great subject and first post.

    Keep your speed up.

  3. Bud,
    It think you are right about Exxon wanting to keep the press as far away as possible. What a lot of people never understood was that when Exxon asked for a TFR, the FAA gave them only a thousand feet. Whoops!

    Since the first posting of the NOTAM, the FAA has revised it to specifically allow credentialed media access to the TFR area.

    I am quite familiar with that area, and with Mayflower. Get too low and those pine trees look like teeth.

  4. Excellent information. Indeed, the amount of misinformation on subjects that are even half way complex, let along very complex is staggering. Well done.

  5. Congratulations on your first post, OS.

    It was frustrating seeing the blogworld reaction to “no fly zone” and the disregard for the explanation of what was actually happening from people who have aviation experience. Posts like this one help set the record straight.

    Long-time lurker & OS fan here. Good move for promoting OS to guest blogger, Prof. Turley.

  6. A clear and concise explanation of a TFR and the reasoning behind it in this situation. As one of those people “who know little of aviation”, I appreciate your post, OS.

    Aerial rubberneckers, who knew!

  7. Chuck,

    I’ve already congratulated and welcomed you, so I want to address the subject. Those of us who decry the state of today’s corporate media via the internet sometimes react far too quickly in snap judgments that are comforting, but incorrect. Although, as readers here know, I subscribe to some “conspiracy theories (JFK, MLK,RFK), I’ve done so after trying to thoroughly educate myself as to the evidence. Without your blog today I would have looked at the “no fly” information as being yet another example of government bending to corporate will, instead of seeing the more nuanced situation. While it is important that those of us who oppose rampant corporatism maintain our vigilance, it is equally important that we get our suppositions right. We cannot oppose propaganda and myth, by resorting to it ourselves. A welcome and distinguished first effort, but then having read you through the years, I kind of knew that is exactly what you would produce.

  8. Excellent first post!
    It’s amazing to me that people can so quickly jump to outrage, especially without facts, or even, with experts, plainly, telling them the truth of the situation.
    Fines against Exxon, for not properly inspecting their pipelines, have been as little as $20 thousand, and upwards of 1.2 million. Exxon makes $122 million a day in profit. So far, any fines assessed against them, for any infractions, is but a tiny blip on the ledger. A million here, a million there, is just the price of doing business.

  9. rdb11,
    I plan to stay on top of this and will post in the comment thread, or update the story if there are new developments. I have family and friends in that area, and will try to find out any back stories on this. Conway is a great town, and has an historic airport. Dennis Cantrell, for whom the Conway airport is now named, was a friend, mentor and great influence on me. http://www.conwayairport.com/history.php

    To say I am angry about what is happening there is an understatement. My concern is that the media gets distracted by every new shiny thing that comes along and misses the real story.

  10. Generaljinjur,
    LOL. I knew about the “Pottery Barn Rule” and its origins with Tom Friedman. The PB people were not too happy with it, but it is one of those phrases that is now part of the language. I remember when I was a kid, all refrigerators were a “Frigidaire” no matter the nameplate. I read that Google is not happy their name is now a verb.

  11. Excellent reporting and analysis. No matter how many times I have to learn it, things aren’t always what they seem.

  12. OS:

    Wow! In deserved tribute to the interesting post, you’ve got quite the following of new commenters. That’s the name of the game.

    Good job JT in getting OS involved!

  13. Chuck

    Great to have your insight as a guest blogger and congratulations on your appointment.

    It is almost embarassing how people bent on arriving at a conspiracy theory explaination piece unrelated events together as proof. The word “no fly zone” harking back to the Northern and Southern portions of Iraq in the 1990s and “temporary flight restrictions” to conclude a coverup. It is not Prohibited Airspace

    It is no more a coverup to hide misdeeds by Exxon than the TFRs issued when the president is in town are issued because he is hiding something while there.

    And what of the TFR over Disneyland? Must have something to hide there.

  14. OS,
    Great job and welcome again! It is interesting that the company responsible for the environmental calamity on the ground is also coordinating the air traffic within the parameters described in your article. I would prefer a third party with no connection to the spill.

  15. Thanks OS for the info regarding air traffic.

    I knew an aviator in the far north who was killed when his spotter aircraft collided with another spotter aircraft during commercial fishing season.

    Too many aircraft in a small airspace is never a good idea.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if Exxon-Mobil was a public utility?

  16. raff,
    At any scene of special operations requiring a TFR, the person who requests it is in charge of whatever is going on. There are simply too many being issued every day for the FAA to send somebody to each location. Here is a list of the latest TFRs, just to give you an idea.


    When the President is in town, it is always the Secret Service who is in charge. I live near a NASCAR track, and the track management is responsible for the TFR on race day. They have two reasons. First, they do not want a “Black Sunday” incident. Additionally, there are helicopters coming in and out as flying taxis. The local air traffic control center monitors the TFR for illegal traffic, and only authorized aircraft are allowed in. All transponder equipped aircraft constantly report their identity, altitude, location, course and speed. All those aircraft wanting to enter the area must clear it with the ground coordinator, who will let ATC know. The local guy functions much like a tower controller. Avoiding mid air collisions is the first priority.

    Since the air traffic control system monitors traffic by radar, they will know it if a pilot busts the TFR. The result of that is nearly always going to involve a chat with some unsmiling people on the ground later. It a pilot busts the TFR around a Presidential visit, they will find themselves with an escort of a couple of F-16s to the nearest airport where they get an interview with the Secret Service.

  17. First and for most welcome to the newest guest blogger. Thanks for the information. Now for my comment. We all know that EXXON is a very powerful corporation. Because of that most of us believe and I think rightly so that if EXXON wanted to keep journalists away from the spill the government would do whatever it took to make that happen. As a result, you don’t have to be a conspiracy nut to think a NO FLY zone would be put in place if EXXON but asked.

    EXXON will do the clean up and get significant tax benefits for doing so. As a result, I give them no credit for stepping up. As to secrecy, the BP spill was a study in exactly what the government allows oil companies and companies in general to hide with regard to their misconduct. Even though non BP experts were shut out of the data related to the spill, BP is now advertising that the clean up and the research regarding it was transparent. Where are the fact checkers when you need them? Millions for ads, thank you BP.

    Again welcome. I look forward to many more of your guest blogs.

  18. Hi OS:

    Glad to see you posting this, and lots of good info and perspective, too.

    Your 40+ years in forensic psychology is more than my 22+ years as an air traffic controller, but I can add a bit to your good work.

    First, FAA cancelled the TFR NOTAM (temporary flight restriction, notice to airmen) on Friday, 4/5. I spent two hours yesterday morning navigating through a maze of phone numbers and handoffs to other FAA officials before I could finally locate the proof, a cancellation NOTAM. I blogged the details on a website I started last Fall to shine a light on the need to reform FAA and other parts of aviation. It is all on the website homepage, at aiREFORM.com.

    In recent months, I have been studying this issue of media coverage of aviation matters. I am finding that much of this reactive exaggeration is easily identified and not a big deal. It seems fair to say, it is no less impactful or annoying than positive spin put onto a story by ‘pro-aviation’ corporate or regulatory interests. In fact, it appears this quick reaction phenomenon is really just an indicator of how very frustrated and outraged many citizens have become, in this modern world which increasingly feels like an out-of-control propaganda machine. Frustrating because we have a resource in the internet that enables us all to have solid, factual information, yet we are being inundated with noise and misinformation. We want to be good democratic participants; we cannot accomplish that goal, if we lack real, factual data.

    What factual data is needed? Really, most of the key Mayflower data was obtained in the first three days, before the Monday TFR. The Greenpeace aerial photos are excellent, as are some imagery created by local residents. But imagery is not the only data needed. This pipeline was carrying diluent, with a large amount of benzene and known carcinogens, all of which will quickly evaporate and become the air we all breathe. People needed to also have accurate air sampling. Unsafe air samples (if they exist) are going to be found within the 5-mile radius and under 1,000′ TFR airspace cylinder. And there is no denying, a pipeline owner who has a ‘boo-boo’, will want to keep private interests from collecting this unsafe air sample evidence.

    This pipeline burst on Friday. Most of the work to contain the damage and clean up the bitumen was done by the end of Saturday. FAA did not issue the TFR NOTAM until Monday. This is a relatively small spill area, just a mile in length. It is all fully accessible via regular streets, to support cleanup workers, etc. If helicopters are useful on this scene, it is only to hop small groups of workers (and lightweight supplies) from one point to another. So, in total, FAA approved a TFR with a very excessive horizontal extent (it should have been a one- or two-mile radius), to protect one cleanup helicopter from the occasional gaggle of two or three media helicopters. The cleanup helicopter likely flew exclusively at or under 500′. I would suggest that, at the time the TFR was issued (9:12AM local time on Monday), FAA was not really thinking about the backlash that would come. So, a couple days later, an FAA spokesperson told Wall Street Journal that the TFR would be rewritten to ensure media access. Then, instead, FAA just outright cancelled the TFR on Friday. A good move by FAA, after a week of fumbling.

    One last detail: FAA has to be very mindful when they impose restrictions. Time and again, it has been apparent that restrictions have the unfortunate consequence of concentrating air traffic just outside the restricted airspace. Thus, the places where midair collisions are most probable tend to be adjacent to boundaries. In this case, three media helicopters without a TFR might be safely operating at 600′, 800′ and 1,000′. With imposition of the TFR, those three media helicopters are going to tend to do their work as low as possible, at 1,000′ or 1,001′ nominally, whatever it takes to be legal.

    Again, FAA did cancel this TFR; that was a good move. Your blog helps illuminate this problem, and thanks for that. Hopefully, with more such blogs, we can get past the reaction and propaganda, and help restore an informed citizenry, engaged within a trusted decision process.

  19. Justice Holmes,
    I agree that the people responsible want to keep this as opaque as possible. I have no idea what kind of TFR they initially asked for, but what the FAA gave them was just about the minimum needed for safe helicopter operations. That is for air traffic only, and the TFR seems reasonable to me. However, the ground game is an entirely different matter and is divorced from the realities of air traffic management.

    Be sure to click the links at the end of the story. If you can do that and keep your blood pressure under control, you are a better person than I.

  20. OS:

    very interesting post. Thank you for introducing me to some flying “lingo”.

    I eagerly await your next post.

  21. OS,
    I understand the principle, but I cannot trust a mass polluter like Exxon to responsibly clean up the mess and I cannot trust them to not try to hide what is going on. The FAA should have a disinterested third party in control of the air space if they are unable to handle it themselves. If there was not an environmental spill at this location, wouldn’t the FAA be responsible for taking care of that air space?

  22. reformfaanow,
    Thanks for the update and added information. I had thought the diameter of the TFR was a bit wide, but since I am not on the ground there any more, I had no way of knowing how much helicopter traffic was going in and out. As for a smaller diameter, as you know, simple geometry tells us that a smaller circumference means more media and sightseeing aircraft in a smaller area. I am not sure what to think of that.

    I wonder if any local residents took air samples? If you clicked the EPA link you can see what it looks like at street level. If it had been my neighborhood, you can bet I would be out there collecting as many different samples as I could. The residents have already met with lawyers, and my guess is they are going to be told how to gather samples.

  23. OS:

    I would like to think I also would quickly sample (assuming I was not sent away from my home, by the sheriff!), but likely would not actually get it done, for lack of funds, expertise and/or equipment. The handy thing for ExxonMobil is these diluents will evaporate quickly, decreasing the probability that one prepared citizen (one of us boy scout types?) will actually collect data showing how bad the air became.

    The most studied incident similar to Mayflower is the Kalamazoo River Enbridge dilbit spill of 7/25/10. Here is a link to the NTSB page with a short summary; there is a PDF link to a 9Mb copy of NTSB’s 164-pg report, completed a year later: http://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/summary/PAR1201.html

    This Kalamazoo incident also produced some ground surveys showing very high benzene concentrations in air samples. Contamination forced closure of water supplies to livestock, a ban on fish consumption, etc., … all the consequences we would expect when neurotoxins like benzene start to become available for ingestion into our fragile (bio) systems.

    BTW, the Kalamazoo incident was reported ‘cleaned up’ by both EPA and Enbridge, within a few months. BUT, one person, a whistleblower in that cleanup process, spoke up and revealed they had completely ignored that bitumen was settling into the mud and out of view (under the water surface). This points toward a very substantial need for review (perhaps by a new NTSB investigation at Mayflower?) of pipeline accidents and sufficiency of the dilbit cleanup protocol. Booms and napkins just do not get the job done, when dealing with a spill where diluent and bitumen are rapidly separating.

    I know the Mayflower area well, too. While I was attending Tulane University in the late 70’s, our orienteering club raced at a meet just east of the contaminated arm. We drove on Hwy 89, over the outlet pipe, to get to the meet, and I remember lots of people were fishing along the stretch of road.

  24. As always, cogent, precise and a delight to read. Thank you OS.
    As an aside, the concept of a TFR is well-accepted in the UK, where airspace is much more tightly controlled than in the US – it is much more crowded!

  25. raff,
    Short answer is no regarding TSAs for other reasons than an oil spill. Glad new user reformfaanow has weighed in. Perhaps he can give you a better answer than I can.

  26. rafflaw:

    other than the tanker spill in Alaska back in the late 80’s what else have they done?

    I live near the headquarters and know a couple of the executives; they are against spillage probably more than you are. For one thing it costs them a good deal of money to clean up those spills, it is bad publicity and they lose a good deal of money through the loss of oil. No one wins with a spill and I am pretty sure they try very hard to prevent spills.

    I know I would if owned an oil company for those 3 reasons and the fact that I like to fish and would be very upset if my favorite trout stream or bass lake/pond were ever polluted. I would imagine I am not the only one who has a favorite trout stream or bass pond.

  27. I fully agree that in a situation such as a pipeline spill, FAA should NOT issue access authority to the fox at the henhouse gate. Either FAA should keep the authority, or call the situation serious enough to compel the pipeline operator to fund an on-site, objective, third-party authority. Not necessarily a tower even; in fact, given the smallish size of the Mayflower site, an advisory service would work just fine. Also, media DOES retain access rights into a TFR via FAA, as per 14 CFR 91.137(c)(5) [and, yes, please accept my apologies for this cite, and a reminder of how onerous media access rights can become!]

    TFR’s are more commonly used to protect movement of the President, or block unnecessary air traffic near a big event like the Super Bowl. The thing is, though, those events do not include a substantial public interest in fact-gathering, as obviously happens at a spill site. So, a TFR for a spill needs to balance the right (and need) to independently sample air quality, against the desire of the emergency respondents to manage public awareness. In answer to Raff’s question, he is correct: in the absence of a TFR, FAA is responsible for aviation activities. All other political entities (EPA, state, county, city, etc.) routinely defers that authority to FAA.

    Also, as for radar coverage and actions against those who might violate this TFR … this location is 21-miles northwest of LIT airport. At low altitudes, it is likely they do not have reliable hits, thus ‘enforcement’ would not be possible.

  28. OS Congrats! Your first post is great and about aviation too! Surprise!
    I, like most, eagerly await your further contributions.

    When I was flying traffic watch in Houston many years ago, I recall that we had a discreet frequency that all low level operators, such as helicopters, traffic watch planes, and police monitored and reported on while using approach as well. This really helped out in letting each of us know where the others were. In this case, if I were flying in that area, I would be monitoring the local unicom frequency of the near airport to find out where other aircraft were too.

    As for Bron’s comments on executives of Exxon not liking oil spills either, I agree that no rational person likes that. Since I took early retirement from ARCO which built the Alyeska pipeline and ran it for many years. I am rather familiar with the oil business. When ARCO built that pipeline ARCO was very cognizant of the environment and worked with the Sierra Club and others to design and contruct it to minimize the problems. In fact ARCO was very pleased that they won an award for doing such a good job. The problems came after BP was allowed to swallow up ARCO. From what I have read from Palast and other sources, BP decided to not run the pigs as often as needed to save on time and money. The oil companies do not make decisions to intentionally cause oil spills, but they DO make decisions to cut corners, try and sweeze as much money and profit as possible out of their assets. It is like the Ford Pinto decision to not fix a problem because to do so would cost more money than simply paying out lawsuit damages.

    So I am quite skeptical of Exxon and its efforts in this regard. They will do whatever they have to do to make sure Exxon has the least monetary damages and PR damages possible and they will do whatever is needed to accomplish that. They will do as they did in the Valdez spill and stall and fight every inch of the way, and hope that most of the litigants die before they have to disburse the cash and have the SCOTUS cut the awards to an obscenely low level.

  29. ARE,
    Thanks for the kind words. The impetus for this story arose out of a pie fight over on Daily Kos the other day. A diarist wrote what was basically a conspiracy theroy diary. Several of us familiar with the regulations tried to explain the situation, but were shouted down by the echo chamber. On DKos, there is an aviation interest group (Kossack Air Force) made up of all kinds of airport bums. Members of that group range from a museum curator and air show coordinator/announcer, to B-52 and F-15 pilots. We made no headway whatsoever. Often wrong but never uncertain.

    One of the banes of my existence has been how media gets stories all wrong, half wrong, or half baked. This was a good example. Of course, that is a different story than the oil spill itself. That story will be writing itself for weeks, maybe years, to come. I saw a report a few days ago about Gulf beaches having a thick layer of oily goop just under the surface of the sand. I hate to think about the impact on Lake Conway, one of the best fishing lakes in the south.

  30. OS Thanks for the info about the Kossack Air Force. I gave up on Dkos because they have a large number of tin foil hats on it and it was not worth my time. At least here, we have only a couple, but they are so few that it is no problem.

    According to Palast they have the same problem in the Valdez spill with a large layer of oil still just beneath the surface. The same problem exists on Padre Island when former Guv. Bill Clements company SEDCO, now part of the company that caused the Global Gulf spill did the same on the Pemex spill in Mexico’s Gulf waters Texas taxpayers picked up the bill for that oil “clean-up” when all the oil washed up on Texas shores. Clements was Guv at the time and needless to say, Texas taxpayers got to pay for that one. So there is still a layer of oil beneath the surface sand. The only good thing is that such a layer has minimal toxicity since all the aromatics and carcinogens are long gone. It is more like old chewing gum, nasty and unpleasant and hard to get off your shoe, but other than that relatively harmless. I have no idea what the impact having that layer has on the flora and fauna even if it has little toxic properties..

  31. Bron,
    If you really want to know what Exxon and the rest of the industry has done to besmirch our environment, here is a link for you. http://www.vitter.senate.gov/newsroom/press/senate-approves-vitter-brown-amendment-to-end-too-big-to-fail-hand-out-for-mega-banks-
    You will note that the Exxon Valdez spill is still considered the worst spill, but the BP might surpass it. The effects of the Exxon spill in Alaska are still being felt by the environment in Alaska and they got off lightly when the Supreme Court reduced the damages award. Plus, we do not even know how bad this Arkansas spill is yet.

  32. OS, Welcome as guest blogger. Great article. FAA did a good job in limiting the altitude of the TSA.

    Pipeliners Local Union blames rupture on negligence – Exxon Mobil Press conference. Pipeliner Local Union says pipes were outdated and could not withstand maximum pressure.

    The oil has reached the lake.

  33. This reminds me of a gas line explosion in NM in 2000. They had a monitoring station where the attendant noticed the pressure was low so he turned it up. Pressure went back down, he turned it up further. Family picnicing created a spark that caused an explosion that killed some of them. The pipes were rusted and the gas took the path of least resistance through the sandy soil. Lack of maintenance and attendant training => disaster. The investigation also found that there is no map of all the gas pipe lines.

  34. rafflaw:

    Oil is a natural substance which has been leaking to the surface of our earth for millions of years. On land and in the oceans:


    There are oil eating bacteria which occur naturally and feed on the oil.

    People should expect to have the environment cleaned and they should be compensated for any loss they suffer and it should be paid for by Exxon and not come from Washington although I guess we will pay in one form or another.

  35. Bron,
    That would all be nice if these environmental catastrophes weren’t man made. The Exxon Valdez disaster is still negatively impacting the environment and the oil eating bacteria are not solving the problem.

  36. reformfaanow,
    Thanks for your input on putting an industry in charge of the access to an oil spill. .

  37. Happy to contribute, Raff, and hope it helps somehow.

    To me, the biggest ‘disaster’ here is the attack on the foundation of democratic process. After my years of experience, I have no doubt that today (likely more so than say ten or thirty years ago) there are plenty of ‘burned out’ people who care little enough, and they now just look out for number one. But, we still have many who do care, who need to learn the facts and SPEAK UP (not be intimidated into silence anymore) so that a decision may be made. If we decide in a fair and full democratic process to take action that destroys our environment, so be it; it least the bad decision did not happen due to deception and manipulation. But, absolutely, we cannot allow corporations or bureaucracies or even just a rogue local person to run roughshod over others, obstructing their access to factual data, and denying their right to participate.

    When I look at the NTSB report at Kalamazoo-Enbridge and relate it to what just happened at Mayflower, I feel bad … mostly for my children.

  38. Bron,
    Somebody is going to pay. You can bet the fat cats will figure some way to avoid pay and bonus cuts. The cost will be passed on to us one way or another. Those most responsible won’t feel a thing except to have to answer more phone calls than usual. The extra time and trouble may even be worth a few more millions in bonuses.

    We could have an argument on which environmental disaster was the worst. There was Chernobyl of course. But look what they are doing to the mountains. The first time I ever rounded a curve on a mountain road and saw a mountain with the top ripped off, I almost threw up in my hat–and I mean that literally. I was sick to my stomach.

  39. OS,
    There have been many environmental disasters for sure. Chernobyl Fukushima, and the Valdez are certainly among the very worst.. But, I believe
    they were all accidental or very bad planning… Whereas as you point out, the destruction of the mountains are very deliberate as are the tar sands.

    Again, I can’t vouch for the validity of that site.

    Slightly OT OS, have you ever been into Burnsville NC (2NCO),
    (or is that nowhere near you?) Looks like one of the most spectacular
    and beautiful mountains in the east.

  40. Bron,
    I don’t know how the coal companies acquire them, but an interesting question. There have to be politics and big money. I am aware that some are because big companies bought up mineral rights, and the original owners never dreamed they would scrape off the mountains to get at the minerals. They are dumping the waste into valleys and rivers, which they don’t own. My view is that everyone owns the mountains. It is not just who buys a patch of land. If we do not take care of the land, it will bite back one day.

  41. Bud,
    Not Burnsville, but got checked out at Spruce Pine (7A8). They don’t recommend you fly in there unless you are checked out in mountain flying and the field itself. Scroll down near the bottom of the page and read the “Additional Remarks.” Other than those few things, the Spruce Pine airport is a piece of cake.


    The FBO does not sell clean underwear.

  42. Thanks OS, I was aware they wanted to check you out first.
    I saw a vid of a MU-2 going into 2NCO. Looks incredible.

    Now about the underwear…. People still wear them????
    Who da thunk?? LOL

  43. OS:

    It would seem to me someone owes some people some money. I am all for using natural resources to make man’s life better but you have to regard your neighbors property.

    people should really pay attention when buying or selling land. the people out west dont convey mineral rights when they sell. They can set a rig a mile away and drill right under your house 10,000′ down slick as you please.

    Which brings up the question of how far down do mineral rights go?

  44. If they were smart and wanted to zone off some air space, they would hire about twenty five dogs like FartinDog and space them around the designated area. On a good day, FartinDog is good for about a quarter of a mile. None dare call it treason.

  45. We put FartinDog in the rear of the station wagon when we go down the roads in North Carolina where it is fair game to tailgate. I lower the back window when they follow too close and he lets out a big one. We open all the front windows and in a short while the tailgater veers off the road in a tizzy. Then Josh gives FartinDog a dog biscuit and we roll the windows back up. When in Florida FartinDog has to give out two in a row because many of them are old geezers and it takes a bit more.

  46. Bud:
    This is the Spruce Pine airport, late afternoon in the fall. There used to be trees on both sides of the runway at the far end. Since it you take off downhill, and land going uphill, it was necessary to thread the needle going between those trees. Glad they are gone. They also lengthened the runway since I was checked out there, which helps a lot. Notice the pilot turns slightly to the right on climb-out. You cannot turn on climb-out. You can barely see it, but as the plane heads out down the valley, the only emergency landing spot in case of engine failure is a triangle shaped parking lot. Typical of mountain flying is the bumpiness even late in the evening when the air should be glassy. I love this place.

  47. OS Wish that I had a video cam when I flew into and out of Dunsmuir-Mott in CA on the side of Mt. Shasta,but I was too busy staying alive. I did that in a Chieftain most of the time, and I insisted that all my aircraft have the heavy duty brakes and a functioning heater. It was beautiful country, but the guy before me on that run parked his Chieftain on the side of Mt Shasta at about 13,000′ They had to rappel down to get the body and the work out of the plane since it is on such a steep slope.

  48. ARE,
    That is serious wave activity country. The Mt. Shasta wave is infamous.

    The now defunct Black Forest Gliderport at Colorado Springs had a runway five thousand feet long and twenty feet wide. The south end was 200 feet lower than the north end. The field had five wind socks. I landed there once with every one of those wind socks pointing in a different direction. I did not even try to hit the runway. Landed on the grass and sat there with the spoilers and dive brakes deployed, stick full forward, wheel brake locked, waiting for the ground crew in the Jeep to come get me. Those were ‘interesting times.’

  49. OS The Dunsmuir airport is only 2300′ long for landing at 3200′ elev., but it compensated for that short length because there was a huge upslope. The 32 runway is closed for takeoffs because of Shasta, and landing on 14 is impossible for the same reason, plus the downslope. It was a real hard time getting into 32 because you had to descend into the I-5 valley and make a sharp left turn before you hit another mountain from the downwind. Of course the winds were always a killer in all seasons. I had to go in there during the winter a lot since many of the airports in Northern CA were closed because of the Tule fog, and they only plowed the narrow runway wide enough for the Chieftan wingspan and you had to watch your wingtips so you didn’t catch the high snowbanks on either side.

    I used the mountain wave to get a C-172 up to 15,000 with some Japanese tourists who wanted to fly over Mt.Shasta. Bet you didn’t know a C-172 was that capable did you?

  50. Thank you Bob. As I said at the top, I have a few things I am passionate about. I will try to share the good stuff.

  51. randyjet,

    As a matter of fact I did. Robert Symons was an early explorer of mountain waves. He initially explored waves in his Cessna 140. Later he took his Super Cub as high as 40,000 feet while doing snow survey work. At that altitude, you need positive pressure oxygen. Here are some photos of the Super Cub, as well as some of the black and white photos Bob took.


  52. OS Thanks that is outstanding and I’m sorry I didn’t know of him. When I was stationed at Yreka for Ameriflight, I did some flight instructing, glider towing, and got my glider rating there. I loved the place and if they had paid better and given me a plane that would burn Jet A, I would probably still be there. During the summer, we had all kinds of sailplanes that could get up over 18,000, so we got a box that we could open with SEA Center when they needed to get high. It is a gorgeous area.

    I remember once we were at Weiser air park and a guy in a Super Cub bought some fuel, he was solo, taxied onto the runway, and took off in about 40′. All of us watching had the same reaction. Why did he even bother with the runway? He could have taken off right from the fuel area with no problem. It is a great airplane.

  53. Randyjet,

    Fuel burn at 15000 (C-172) must be great, but how long did it take
    to get there, 10 hours??? LOL

  54. Bud, Since it was summer it did not take long at all. The thermals were incredible over Siskyou county airport, then the ridge lift to the east boomed me up to 15,000 on the way to Mt. Shasta. It only took as long as it took to fly to Shasta. The tourists loved it. If I had a Super Cub with skis, I think I could have landed on the ice in the ridge between the peaks or on the top. Of course, in order to get back off, I would have had to leave the pax on top. LOL!

  55. Bud,
    Randy used the energy of a mountain wave so it would not have taken him long. First time I popped off tow in the Pike’s Peak wave, the variometer (similar to vertical speed indicator) needle hovered between 3,000 and 4,000 fpm. That was with no engine. Totally silent, but feel as if a giant hand has grabbed you and flung you straight up. Fuel burn? Zero.

  56. I gathered that OS.
    I was referring to Randyjet taking tourists up to FL 150 in
    a Cessna 172.
    Most 172’s are not thrilled about climbing with 4 SOB’s. he he

    Post at: randyjet 1, April 7, 2013 at 10:55 pm
    I should have copied and highlighted that quote
    up thread.

  57. Thank You for the lesson Mr Scribe great first blog i look forward to reading your blogs. im sure i will enjoy and learn from them as i have all the other guest bloggers and commenters on the forum

  58. Thanks ARE,

    Never spending much time near the cumulo-granite, I would be
    pushing my personal envelope with that type of flying. The scenery
    must be heavenly though, as evidenced in some DVD’s and videos.
    Aren’t they incredible inventions for pilots?

  59. From today’s issue of the Log Cabin Democrat, the Conway, AR newspaper. The airborne toxins have begun to lessen. They are volatile, by definition, so that is expected. What is left is tarry goop, and going to be a major problem to clean up.


    Also, the Feds have ordered the pipeline not be restarted until they are satisfied the repairs.


  60. University of Central Arkansas experts have begun working on saving as much wildlife as possible. Birds are relatively easy and a lot has been learned about cleaning birds from previous oil spills. However, trying to clean up Cottonmouth Moccasins and Rattlesnakes is a much trickier problem. Saving snakes is important because they are an essential part of the ecosystem. They keep small rodents and other pests under control.


  61. OS:

    just grab em by the tail and swing em around to get the oil off. once done you just let go for a long distance re-patriation.

  62. Three years later in the gulf……


    The oil that spewed into the Gulf of Mexico during the Deepwater Horizon disaster three years ago killed off millions of amoeba-like creatures that form the basis of the gulf’s aquatic food chain, according to scientists at the University of South Florida.

    The die-off of tiny foraminifera stretched through the mile-deep DeSoto Canyon and beyond, following the path of an underwater plume of oil that snaked out from the wellhead, said David Hollander, a chemical oceanographer with USF.

    “Everywhere the plume went, the die-off went,” Hollander said.

    The discovery by USF scientists marks yet another sign that damage from the disaster is still being revealed as its third anniversary looms. Although initially some pundits said the spill wasn’t as bad as everyone feared, further scientific research has found that corals in the gulf died. Anglers hauled in fish with tattered fins and strange lesions. And dolphins continue dying.

    The full implications of the die-off are yet to be seen. The foraminifera are consumed by clams and other creatures, who then provide food for the next step in the food chain, including the types of fish found with lesions. Because of the size of the spill, the way it was handled and the lack of baseline science in the gulf, there’s little previous research to predict long-term effects.

  63. bettykath: “Just saw this from 2007. Sometimes the msm just doesn’t even bother reporting it.” “CIA-Torture-Jet-wrecks-with-4-Tons-of-COCAINE”

    WoW!. just ‘wow’. Great catch. I specially liked the following paragraph from the article:

    “The Gulfstream Jet was initially reported by the Mexican Press as carrying a huge cargo of more than 6 Tons of Cocaine as well as one ton of pure Heroin but a later press release courtesy of the Mexican Military had it dwindled down to only 4 tons of Cocaine with no Heroin whatsoever. By early October the Mexican press announced a 3rd reduction leaving only 3.7 Tons of cocaine followed a few days with 3.6 then later by a 5th and final report from the Mexican Authorities that gave the amount as just 3.3 tons of Cocaine. Draw your own conlusions about the missing 3 ton’s of cocaine and the ton of heroin that was first reported. ”


    (Articles I have read stated that the ONI took up the slack for the Corsican’s and did the drug running themselves while the Corsican’s reclaimed control of the Marseilles docks from the striking workers.)


  64. OS at 5:40, One of the links in your article stated that the clean-up workers in Arkansas were observed doing their job without protective gear while residents were complaining that the fumes were making them sick.

    During the Gulf spill when BP was running the show and no observers or news people were allowed into the affected area someone got in and took photos of the clean-up crews working without any safety equipment. This became a big deal because of the corexit which breaks down organic matter. Most of the clean-up workers were locals. Thereafter there were large numbers of workers that became very ill. Now with this bitumen there is a cocktail of chemicals used that are not even disclosed and the same disregard for safety among the workers.

    It’s this kind of thing and washing the bitumen in the streets into the storm sewers- which empty into the wetland- that are the cause of the news blackouts. It’s about willfully breaking the law and cutting corners on worker health (and expense) and it’s done in collusion with local and federal government. No one wants America to know the cost of our dirty energy addiction.

  65. BK,
    Tuckerman is about 100 miles northeast of Mayflower. They have been having problems for years. That appears to be sediment (aka, dirt) in the water, and this letter to the mayor might explain some of the problem. The letter was dated a year ago, and nothing appears to have been done. BTW, the water company is privately owned, rather than being a public utility.


  66. That water looks terrible, and glad to see we were able to quickly recognize it was for a different water quality problem, at a community a hundred miles away.

    The question still remains, though, for Mayflower: what impact will this dilbit spill have on key parts of the Mayflower environment?

    Technical papers by the oil industry show bitumen is typically blended at a 70-to-30 ratio with benzene, naptha and other diluents. The stuff is designed to flow, and it is understand if you keep it moving, it will stay mixed and flowing. The pictures at Mayflower show that the flowing diluent near the breach was a heavy, fluid oil, almost like a slurry seal.

    So, what happens when that artificially created mixture abruptly loses its velocity and constant mixing, and suddenly interacts with soil, or vegetation, or marsh, or water? Does it rapidly separate? Do the lighter volatiles quickly evaporate or soak into soil? How far do they go? When this mixture hits water, does it accelerate separation of diluent from bitumen, as would be expected given the varying chemical properties?

    And, of course, those silly booms. How in the hell do we expect a line of floating plastic bubbles to stop lighter diluents like benzene when we all know the booms would do nothing for any lightweight oils (think of how quickly olive oil spreads on the surface of water)? Or, for that matter, what stops the sinking bitumen from flowing UNDER the booms? As many have noted, these booms are just show.

    No doubt about it. The scariest thing about the Mayflower dilbit spill is that, after the initiate few days of stink-hell, and once we have all forgotten about the massive pressure-washing, it becomes very easy to not notice pipeline-related contaminants added to your environment. So, if I lived near this pipeline breach and had a well, I would definitely be testing for benzene and other contaminants, repeatedly in the next couple months. If I was on city water and had a home on Starlite Road, I would insist on a deep soil test, to ensure all benzene and other contaminants are gone.

  67. Arkansas Online has an excellent file with documents related to the spill. One of the documents is a Sampling & Analysis Plan, as updated on 4/4/13. It shows no benzene on 3/30 and 3/31, then benzene measured at both ends of the pipe under Hwy 89; i.e., benzene in the Cove (south of Hwy 89), and in the actual Lake Conway (north of Hwy 89).

    The two pages showing a map of sampling locations and benzene levels are uploaded here:

    Notice that it took three days for the benzene to migrate roughly a mile from the breached pipeline to the sampling locations, and another day for the benzene to substantially accumulate. The benzene levels present a health risk, as well as a fire risk (at higher concentrations).

    Not sure what the flammability is of benzene, but perhaps someone else can provide data: at what concentration do authorities shut down roadways and other potential spark sources? I saw one article mentioning I-40 was temporarily closed during the early spill, perhaps out of fear of ignition.

    Link to Arkansas Online’s cache of documents:

  68. I used to be the chief operator on a benzene toluene unit for many years and got more than my fair share of it. So far so good I hope. It is extremely flamable and explosive. The way I got the job on the unit was two workers were burned to death on the unit, and I was their replacement. Benzene is slightly less flamable than gasoline and we used it to boost the octane rating and vapor pressure in gasoline. Gasoline is simply a mixture of a large variety of components that are mixed to give the desired characteristics such as vapor pressure, octane, etc..So it is very rare that any batch of gasoline is made up of exactly the same components from one batch to the next.

    Being mixed with much heavier oil will slow down the benzene considerably since it will take some time for it to seperate from the heavier components and the vapor pressure of the mix is very low and the benzene is very misseble in the oil. I have no idea of what the exact stochiometric ratio is for explosive or flamability, but it is close to gasoline in its pure form.

  69. Thanks for the insight, ARE… hands-on experience is always very valuable. My recollection of chemistry in high school and college is vague, but after a little poking around, I found a table with ‘flash points’ for various liquids. Here is a definition:
    ……………The flash point of a chemical is the lowest temperature where enough fluid can evaporate to form a combustible concentration of gas.
    The flash point is an indication of how easy a chemical may burn. Materials with higher flash points are less flammable or hazardous than chemicals with lower flash points………….

    Gasoline is one of the most flammable, listed at -45deg Fahrenheit. Benzene is 12degrees Fahrenheit. This bit of information (to me) suggests that authorities should have been (and likely were) extremely concerned about the potential for a benzene fire after this dilbit spill. The nature of dilbit, as a blend, would make it likely to rapidly separate if it interacts with a different environment. Thus, the dilbit flowing into the drainage and toward the Cove might remain fairly well blended while in motion, but once it crashes into an body of standing water, benzene and other volatiles will rapidly separate into a layer of gasses.

    Another parameter is LEL and UEL, meaning the ‘lower explosive limit’ and ‘upper explosive limit’ for the vaporized volatile. LEL/UEL for benzene are very similar to those for gasoline; explosions can be ignited at concentrations from 1.3% to 7.9% of the air volume. My guess is a rapidly separating dilbit will take little time to pass LEL and become ready to ignite.

    It is troubling that it appears both pipeline and government officials knowingly downplayed the danger. The handling of this (and other dilbit spills) is routinely presented as an oily inconvenience; nobody with knowledge will speak up candidly and responsibly (and certainly not timely) about the health and explosion hazards. This is wrong, though it seems par for the course. Two years ago, when Fukushima melted down, it seemed reasonable we should expect radiation contaminants to hit the U.S. West Coast. I noticed then, the talk about this hazard was very minimal and oblique. But, just this week, I see a study has been done linking the increase in an Iodine isotope created at Fukushima to a clear spike in thyroid conditions. After the early 2011 meltdown, the incidence of these thyroid conditions tripled here in the Pacific/western states, while in the far S.E. U.S., there was essentially no change.

    Here is a link to the flashpoint list:

  70. I have to also state that I took a year of engineering organic chemistry too since I was trying at one time to get my Chem E degree. There really was little danger since benzene is miscible in the oil and takes some time to seperate out. To give a common example, if you leave a container of gasoline uncovered for months, you will find it no longer will work in most engines since the aromatics and lighter parafins have evaporated out. Thus the vapor pressure is not sufficient to sustain combustion or start. Now envision not a container of gasoline which is very volatile, but one that has tar in it which has been diluted with enough benzene and other lighter components that dilute it enough to cut its viscosity so it can be pumped. That will be a lot less volatile than the gasoline, have a much higher flash point.

    There are very handy meters that we used in the refinery called MSA meters which measure the hydrocarbon vapors concentration and which we used when vessels were to be entered and work done in any area where a spark was being used as in welding. In fact, those meters can and will detect vapors soon enough and with so little concentration that measures can be taken to avoid any danger. They are standard equipment in the oil patch, so I am sure that they had them on site. While I criticize the oil companies for their cutting corners in maintenance and operations, in such a situation, it would really be a PR disaster for the spill to blow up in a BIG ball of fire

    As for the longer term effects of exposure to benzene fumes, I have no idea, but I can state that I had 14 years exposure of a far more intense kind and I am still here. Lucky I guess so far. Many workers were not so lucky. In fact, on our unit, I tried to get the union safety dept to investigate the exposure effects since we had three of the wives of our workers on the unit have miscarriages in a short period of time. She explained to me the problems, and requisite tests, and basically told me that it was near impossible to prove damage on such a limited sample to get any correlation. The best you can say is that persons who have allergies will be more adversely affected than those who don’t. Fortunately, chemicals are not as bad or as hard to detect as radiation is. You cannot smell radiation.

    I also had some friends of mine who went to work on the Alyeska pipeline who came out of the refinery and our unit. I visited them in Alaska decades ago, and haven’t kept up with them. So I have no idea of their perceptions of how BP has run the operation as opposed to ARCO. Greg Palast is a great reporter on BP and its failings and from what I have read, he doesn’t make any technical errors that I can see..

  71. I have been following this in the Log Cabin Democrat, the daily paper out of Conway. There is some controversy over local law enforcement officers wearing their official uniforms while off duty and doing private security work. Wearing of department uniforms has to be with permission of the department. 19 officers are doing this.

    Others may differ, but this is just wrong. When they report to an Exxon supervisor and get a check from Exxon, then they need to be wearing Exxon security uniforms. Security officers do not have the power to arrest.

    Some argue they are “are always on duty.” That is a load of that famous barnyard product. If they got a job at a fast food restaurant, you can bet they would be wearing the company tunic with logo on the shirt. This is no different. If every department has a different policy, it becomes a crazy quilt of rules. The state legislature ought to step in, or better yet, a Federal law needs to be enacted. Those uniforms ought not to be for hire.

    Here is a link to the Log Cabin story.

  72. OS you are quite right about this since they can issue company rules that are clearly unlawful and do it under color of law. In New Orleans they paid their cops so little that the only way to live was to work part time in bars as bouncers in uniform, and they also basically got bribes the same way. I was astounded at how little the cops were paid, and then they were surprised that most of the force was corrupt! Of course, the corruption was the fault of the individual cop, but the city I think had to bear some responsibility for setting them up for it.

  73. OS,
    The above story that you linked to is why a corporation should not be coordinating air space at any time. Especially air space above one of their ecological messes. Thanks for the link.

  74. Raff,
    I don’t have any problem with the local person on the ground in charge of air traffic being an employee of the agency running the air traffic. They will have access to private corporate radio frequencies and and can communicate with their own helicopters and survey aircraft on company frequencies separate from normal air traffic control frequencies. They will be monitoring one of the UNICOM frequencies as well. A UNICOM (Universal Communications) station is an air-ground communication facility operated by a non-air traffic control private agency to provide advisory service at uncontrolled airports, or in a TFR. UNICOM (most often 122.800 MHz) would be how the ground person talks to credentialed media aircraft. The sole responsibility of the company person on the ground during the time the TFR is in place is to keep air traffic separated.

    For example, at an airshow the TFR will be the responsibility of the airshow coordinator. Ross Sharp, who commented above (April 7, 2013 at 1:05 pm) was a professional airshow coordinator before he left the UK to become an American citizen. Ross knows more about this than I do. As Ross will be quick to tell you, the company guy on the ground knows how he wants helicopter and survey traffic to interact. There would be no point at all for him to have to tell an FAA guy what to do and simply have it relayed.

    During a Presidential visit, the Secret Service is in charge and basically tell the FAA what to do, and have the power to scramble interceptor fighters if necessary. There is one major exception to local coordinator(s) running air operations. That is at the Experimental Aircraft Association AirVenture fly-in and airshow held at Oshkosh, Wisconsin every year.

    The TFR at the annual EAA AirVenture airshow and fly-in at Oshkosh every July has one of the coolest TFRs in all of aviation. It is fifty miles radius around Wittman Field at Oshkosh, and goes to FL400 (flight level 40,000 feet). It may be the only one regularly staffed by FAA controllers. Not just any controllers, but the best ones on the FAA staff. The Oshkosh NOTAM usually runs about 35 pages, and they will send it out as a brochure for pilots requesting a printed copy. For one week, Wittman Field has the busiest control tower in the world. Last year, 10,000 airplanes flew into the field. FAA controllers compete to get to work AirVenture. It is the Super Bowl of air traffic control. In the case of the EAA AirVenture, it would literally be impossible for the EAA to run the tower.

  75. raff,
    Forgot to add: Managing and coordinating takeoffs and landings of aircraft with the cleanup crews, and advising news media aircraft of conflicting traffic is one thing. That is all the TFR is about. What the manager does with the ground operation is something else. As far as the FAA rules go, they only apply to airspace operations and safety. Security guards, road traffic/closings and cleanup crews are not affected by the TFR because they are outside the jurisdiction of the FAA.

  76. Oshkosh is a neat event, but not the Super Bowl of ATC. In fact, many will assert the process devolves into a zoo, with almost no ATC at all. Here’s what I mean…

    …In Air Traffic Control, you have people using equipment and making quick decisions to manage flow. Much like a traffic cop gyrating and waving at a busy intersection under a broken traffic signal. In situations like Oshkosh, when the flood of air traffic becomes essentially uncontrollable, we impose rules that manage the flow, so as not to need to use people to perform the work. Thus, strict use of arrival routes and procedures is mandated, with the effect that the flood of GA arrivals self-spaces and self-sequences. The role of those controllers then reduces to mostly just watching for any situation where Aircraft A obviously does not say Aircraft B, and issuing radio calls to help prevent a collision. In regular ATC, the process involves separating aircraft by a minimum safe standard; at Oshkosh, that safe standard devolves to ‘just do not hit’.

    The process works overall, but not entirely. Look up the 7/27/10 midair at Ripon, WI in the NTSB database (link to full narrative: http://www.ntsb.gov/aviationquery/brief2.aspx?ev_id=20100730X91552&ntsbno=CEN10IA447A&akey=1).

    As for the issue of FAA giving ExxonMobil authority to control the flow over Mayflower, there is an important distinction between ‘control’ and ‘advisory’. This distinction also applies to smaller airshows. An ‘advisory’ simply adds eyes and a voice to the ground, to guide pilots with info that will help the flow and the safety; control involves issuing instructions, having authority to deny requests, etc. Control transfers considerable responsibility to the ‘controller’, thus makes that person (or agency) subject to legal action if anything bad happens. As such, FAA and others are averse to ‘controlling’ airspace without having lots of minimum infrastructure (such as posted airspace regulations, an actual control tower, radar equipment, radio equipment, etc.)

    An appropriate regulation to properly manage a situation like Mayflower would be to have FAA create a TFR (temporary flight restriction), coupled with an on-site observer following set advisory guidelines … and make the pipeline company foot the bill. The TFR would declare no pilot access to the TFR airspace without first establishing communications with the on-site advisory service. The frequency being used by the on-site advisory service would be specified in the TFR. But, the key thing is, the on-site advisory service would be fully removed from the pipeline company. They would not be influenced by a desire to hide information from the media. They would follow set procedures, watching from the ground, issuing traffic calls, and suggesting staying away if/when congestion is occurring. Their equipment would likely be nothing more than a stronger portable transceiver, a laptop or paper pad to track calls, a digital recording system to document the traffic communications, and a dedicated cellphone for quick contact to the designated FAA authority (such as Memphis Center, in the Mayflower case). They would NOT need a portable tower; just a vehicle and an ability to immediately step outside and scan the horizon. Logically, in a situation such as at the Mayflower spill, they would be co-located with other Federal, state, and local response officials, to coordinate activities.

    And, as noted, FAA’s regs would require ExxonMobil to foot the bill. Logic is that their pipeline accident spurred a dangerous air traffic situation, creating the need for a temporary, manned advisory service. Frankly, such a service should cost no more than $500-$1,000 per day, for all costs (pay, lodging, per diem, gas/equipment, etc.).

    As for those cops earning bonus pay from ExxonMobil, especially those in uniform… disgusting. That, coupled with the $15K to the PTO shows just how easily money corrupts. This is Arkansas, I guess; not the beautiful land and warm people I remember, but a new land of corruption, at least in pockets. It kind of reminds me of those thirty pieces of silver from bible history; imagine how confused Christians (in Arkansas and elsewhere) would be if a corporation had stepped in, made a donation to the apostles, and bought their silence after Jesus was crucified.

  77. OS, The EAA show is Oshkosh is amazing. My friend flew us in, once in his twin Comanche and once in his Aerostar. Great show! An aircraft for everyone’s taste.

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