Civil Liberties

Pilots Have No Rights, Say Feds Behind Search Scheme

Because they're regulated by the FAA, the feds say they can do what they please


Flying has obtained information from a law enforcement source about the federal program that detains pilots upon their arrival at their destination airports and searches their airplanes. Training for the program was conducted via an "aviation drug interdiction" class sponsored by HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area), a government organization that is a conglomerate of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to fight, as the name implies, drug traffic. …

Our source told us that the ramp check was just a ploy to search the airplane and that the real target of the search was drugs, though even that, he said, could be used as a pretense for apprehending other potential criminals. The federal agents teaching the class he attended did not specify what other kind of "target" they might find, he said. 

He also told us that during the training he was taught that the pilots were to be treated as though they had no right to refuse the search. "What they taught law enforcement officers and agents was that all aircraft can be detained since they all fall under the . . . authority of the FAA." He continued that, "this in effect gives them complete search authority of any aircraft."