Airlines

Glider Pilot, 70, Arrested and Questioned by FBI and DHS for Flying Over a Nuclear Power Plant

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glider pilot

Meet South Carolina glider pilot Robin Fleming, age 70. In the course of an ordinary glider flight last July, Fleming would wind up in custody, locked in a cell for over 24 hours with 11 other inmates. He was questioned by a special agent from the FBI and an aviation security inspector from the Department of Homeland Security.

The charges, which he only learned after a night in the pokey, were for breach of the peace. The crime: flying his Rolladen-Schneider LS8-18 sailplane over the H.B. Robinson Nuclear Generating Station, which is not marked as a restricted zone on aviation maps.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has the (insanely detailed) report and a great (non-embeddable) video:

No airspace restrictions were printed on sectional charts; no notam marked the area off-limits. When a woman at Hartsville Regional Airport relayed over the Unicom that law enforcement wanted him to land, he had flown to that airport and landed, greeted by a swarm of law enforcement vehicles.

Local law enforcement officials and the Federal Aviation Administration don't think Fleming broke any rules. Because gliders rely on air currents to maneuveur, they often circle and can't land quickly—the two behaviors that alarmed certain authorities:

A better knowledge of aviation issues among law enforcement officials may have produced a better result for Fleming. Griffin said she had to tell the officers on the scene to clear out the runway, and one officer talked about commandeering the airport. "He was running around, the one guy that was commandeering everything, saying, 'We were going to shoot him down,'" she said.

On the other hand, Griffin said that pilots from the Chesterfield County Sheriff flew the department's helicopter to the airport, but left when they found out what was going on. "They pulled out a chart and they said, 'Look here, … nothing in this chart says you cannot fly over the nuclear plant,'" she said. "'Nothing.'"

Via tallyho.

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  1. You broke the law, but we won’t give you the information necessary to avoid breaking the law in the future. Move along, citizen.

    1. like Mark responded I am impressed that a mom able to get paid $6266 in four weeks on the computer. have you seen this website. http://www.Snag4.com

  2. You guys are posting old stories that have already appeared in the “anti-federalist media”

  3. Breach of the peace? When they pull that chestnut out, you know they’re trying to justify an unlawful detainment.

  4. On the other hand, Griffin said that pilots from the Chesterfield County Sheriff flew the department’s helicopter to the airport, but left when they found out what was going on. “They pulled out a chart and they said, ‘Look here, ? nothing in this chart says you cannot fly over the nuclear plant,'” she said. “‘Nothing.'”

    Still clinging to the antiquated notion that you can’t enforce a law that doesn’t exist.

    1. I’m somewhat surprised he wasn’t shot down.

      1. With what?!?

        I doubt they had anything that could reliably hit an aircraft flying more than a hundred feet above the ground.

        These were the local pigs having their terrorgasm.

        1. I don’t know, spread the panic to the nearest Air Force base? Call the SWAT guys?

          1. The air force guys use the same charts as the civilians. Plus, I doubt they can get a radar seeker or heat seeker to track a flimsy glider. So we’re talking cannon fire…. on a glider… and needing presidential authorization.

            My guess is the Air Force would be laughing too hard to tell the cops to fuck themselves.

            And the SWAT guys may have powerful weapons, but the sights aren’t set up for fast moving airborne targets. They’d probably hose down some house a quarter mile away with their missed shots.

            1. So what you’re telling me is that gliders could fucking terrorize America at will?

              1. When they fly low, we can shoot at them with our seven round magazine-equipped rifles.

              2. They could carry a hand-grenade’s weight of ordnance and drop it anywhere within a hundred miles of their launch point!

                1. Yeah, go ahead, laugh off the threat. What if the body of the glider were made of an explosive polymer?

                  We’re so fucked. The terrorists have already won.

                  1. We were fucked when Kyle MacLachlan demonstrated the construction of a Stealth Catapult in Robin Hood: Men in Tights.

                    1. A stealth catapult? Brilliant!

                      That movie sucks, right? Because I never watched it.

                  2. What if it were made of a cannabis polymer like in that movie?

                  3. bin Laden may have been a terrorist, but he did know exactly where to hit us. We have thrown away EVERYTHING that made the US a “beacon of hope”. Now, we’re a laughing stock, even for the French!

            2. See? SEE?! The local police *need* drones!

              1. That movie sucks, right? Because I never watched it.

                How could you think a movie done by Mel Brooks would suck? Especially one starring the guy from The Princess Bride as Robin Hood?

                That movie is fucking hilarious.

                1. I love Brooks, but I thought that was one of the latter-day not-so-good flicks. I’ll give it a try.

        2. Was it the locals who arrested him? The article makes it seem like the local guys knew he wasn’t doing anything wrong and the FBI and DHS were the ones freaking out.

      2. Paint a dog on his glider and he would have been.

        Look Cletus, a flying dog, and it looks MAD!

  5. “He was running around, the one guy that was commandeering everything, saying, ‘We were going to shoot him down,'” she said.

    That’s an awesomely belittling way of phrasing that. “He was running around…”

    1. I like the the one guy that was commandeering everything bit, myself. It sounds so adorably pathetic.

    2. A better knowledge of aviation issues among law enforcement officials may have produced a better result for Fleming. Griffin said she had to tell the officers on the scene to clear out the runway,

      I now have this scene in my head, complete with Yakety Sax and bowling sound effects. That would have been glorious, even though they would have riddled the glider with bullets after that, assuming they didn’t shoot each other first.

  6. When his attorney returned and said the case would be dismissed if he agreed not to take any legal action against Darlington County law enforcement, he said, he reluctantly agreed.

    Ha! What judge would approve that kind of coersive agreement?

    1. Pretty much any judge in the USA.

  7. “Well, we can drop the [ridiculous] charges if you agree not to sue.” Yeah, nothing sounds absurdly ridiculous there.

  8. The crime: flying his Rolladen-Schneider LS8-18 sailplane over the H.B. Robinson Nuclear Generating Station, which is not marked as a restricted zone on aviation maps.

    Wow, when I saw this post, I was gearing up to say, “Uhh, yeah, if I fly over a military base or other restricted zone, I can expect something to happen.

    But ok, fair play to Fleming.

  9. He recalled that someone told him there was no intention to charge him with any federal offenses related to the incident, and that he was asked to explain the intent of his flight. He explained how he navigated by VFR charts, and that no restrictions were charted or published by notam in the area of the plant.

    Mistake on Fleming’s part.

    Had I been Fleming, I’d have said, “fuck you and your questions, I want my lawyer here, because I need to know how far I can ram a lawsuit up your ass”.

  10. The assertion that “local law enforcement and the FAA don’t think Fleming broke any rules” is wrong. The article at the AOPA is clear that while the FAA did not require him to land, local law enforcement did demand he do so, and arrested him.

    The FBI and dhs questioned him the next day, and told him explicitly that they did not seek to charge him with any crime. The county prosecutor charged him with disturbing the peace, not any federal agent. This is a story about paranoid local cops, and the federal agencies that have to deal with their fuckups.

    1. Shut the fuck up, joe, you pathetic midget. Go hang yourself already.

      1. Be nice, Epi. Maybe he can’t reach the beam.

        1. USE A STOOL.

    2. Like many of these stories, someone arrested the man. Someone approached him, asked him to put his hands on the hood of a car, slapped the cuffs on and took him into custody.

      I agree, from my reading, it looks like local yokels were the first ones to arrest him and charge him. Besides, I kept scratching my head, “Do the feds have a ‘breach of the peace’ law? That sounds very… municipal…”

      And does Reason’s site seem to be kind of… mammaries north on anyone?

      1. My question of course is… why did the feds and DHS even come down to question him? Couldn’t they have just, you know, googled it and written a nice email back saying:

        Dear Boss Hog,

        Please quit bothering us with your time-wasters.

        Thank you,

        The Feds.

      2. And does Reason’s site seem to be kind of… mammaries north on anyone?

        Yep. Slow-go/no-go.

    3. I see Joe’s hitting the bottle early today!

      Was he arrested? Check!

      Was he interrogated by the FBI? Check!

      Did the FAA claim consistently that he didn’t break their rules? Check!

      Did the sheriff department concur with the FAA? Check!

      Is Joe suffering from that truculence that some short guys get that didn’t have a name until the 1800’s when a short Corsican army officer decided to punish Europe for all the times his bed was short-sheeted?

      Magic Eight Ball says: All signs point to yes!

      1. So who arrested the guy?

        The supposedly “insanely detailed” article actually isn’t clear on the matter, though the only law enforcement agency mentioned as being on scene when he landed is the sheriff’s dept. They mention an “incident report” by one deputy which says he wasn’t required to land, and a separate “arrest report” of unknown provenance which says he refused orders to land. It wouldn’t surprise me if both came from different people in the sheriff’s dept.

        In short, Derriere is correct in saying that the anti-fed outrage in this thread is misplaced in this case.

    4. Do you have a point, Joe, besides that we have too many overbearing government agencies who clearly don’t have enough to do to justify their existence?

  11. nothing in this chart says you cannot fly over the nuclear plant

    “That would be telling.”

  12. Suspicions were aroused.

    Aircraft were interdicted.

    Pilots were interrogated.

    Potential terror plots were averted.

    Commendations were awarded.

    Programs were justified.

  13. I’m glad I can depend on you Pro L.

  14. “I am not a flight number. I am a free man!”

      1. I’m trying to remain calm about this.

  15. Flight restrictions are so gay. The worst are the moving “VIP” ones that can creep up on pilots unannounced. No person is so “very important” as to necessitate encroaching on the daily rights of individuals to move around, in the air or on the ground.

    1. And even if they were that very important, if the threat is so great to their safety that no civilian aircraft can be in their airspace, they probably shouldn’t be going out in public.

    2. As someone who lives and has flown in small heli’s in Virginia, I can tell you that the temporary restrictions are a royal pain in the assignment. Don’t even bother trying to cross the VA/MD border vicinity.

  16. A friend of mine once had to land his sailplane on the driving range of a golf course at Lake Tahoe. The local policeman showed up and immediately demanded to see his driver’s license. The same thing happened to a tow pilot friend who had been towing a glider that released early and crashed. I thought ignorance of the law was not an excuse.

    1. If you’re a cop ignorance of the law creates new law.

      1. If you’re a cop, you have successfully navigated the IQ ceiling, and are operating one sigma below mean.

        Further, if you’re a cop you will have absolutely no clue what the preceding sentence means.

    2. My favorite incident was when they lifted the air restrictions on the Thursday after 9/11. Every GA pilot who was waiting to take off did. Except that 30 minutes later, the government changed its mind and clamped back down. My father was escorted by 2 jets to the nearest runway as he’d been in the air flying VFR and had no idea of the change.

    3. Lake Tahoe is a hub for gliding, so I’m guessing those emergencies are a somewhat common occurrence. The cops hadn’t been given a memo?

      I’ve also heard of cops attempting to “pull over” trains, and doing dumb shit like demanding to see drivers licenses.

  17. As a licensed pilot, that is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard! Stupid cops, go find some real crime to deal with!

    http://www.anon-elite.tk

    1. Wait, so pedobot is an autopilot?

      He must have had his personality programming taken from this guy:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Oeb8nhNJOU

      1. Why are commenters referring to it as “pedobot”?

        1. A thread some while back on child molestation, our creepy bot’s response was “Pics or it didn’t happen.” I therfore dubbed him the Pedo-bot.

          1. The thread was about the CPSIA, not child molestation, but yeah.

            1. You’re right. Thanks for finding the thread. The pedobot’s egregious statement is actually worse than I remembered.

  18. I WANT MY COUNTRY BACK!!!

    1. Short of buying a rope factory and renting one hell of a lot of cranes and cherry pickers, you won’t get it.

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