Submitted by Charlton Stanley (Otteray Scribe) guest blogger
This has not gotten much national press….yet. I had been hearing of these events through the aviation grapevine, but did not know for sure it was actually happening until the story of Gabriel Silverstein broke on the AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) news web page. Mr. Silverstein is a New Jersey businessperson who was returning from a business trip to California with his husband. He had filed a flight plan, and landed his Cirrus SR22, a small private aircraft, in Oklahoma for a fuel stop. At that time, he was subjected to a ramp check. By Federal Air Regulations, a ramp check is supposed to be done only by an FAA official. On a standard ramp check, the pilot has to produce documents showing the airplane is airworthy, is registered, and has the paperwork on board as required under Part 91 of the Federal Air Regulations. The pilot must show his or her pilot’s license and medical certificate. The Oklahoma ramp check was brief, and he went on his way. He had to stop for fuel again in Iowa City. Upon arrival, he went into the FBO (Fixed Base Operator) office to pay for his gas, take a break and file a new flight plan. When he returned to his plane, he found it surrounded by officers, being searched without his permission, and with no explanation. The officers said “Probable Cause” was the K-9 dog had “hit” on the baggage compartment. The officers ordered him to be quiet, and if he asked any more questions, he would spend the rest of the day in the back of a police cruiser in handcuffs.
One officer handed Mr. Silverstein a business card identifying him as being with the Department of Customs and Border Protection. Mr. Silverstein says the brown uniforms and shoulder patches he saw that day were identical to the one worn by the officer on the right in this stock CPB photo. On their web page, the CPB identifies this location as being at their Air and Marine Operations Center. I think we can safely assume this is not the main operations room, but only part of the operation.
Geography was not my favorite subject in school, but last time I looked, both Oklahoma and Iowa are a long way from any international border.
More Border Patrol and Homeland Security goodness over the jump, including a video interview with Mr. Silverstein.