Monday, October 8, 2007

The Cost of Presidential Travel

Bush's Visit Takes Wind Out of Antique Airplane Show
By Susan Kinzie Washington Post Staff Writer Monday, October 8, 2007; B05
Nice day for a flight yesterday.
Unless you were headed to the annual Hagerstown Fly-In in an antique plane without a radio and your flight plan took you directly over restricted airspace in Maryland where President Bush was attending a memorial service.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, from about 9 a.m. to noon yesterday, a dozen planes crossed into the no-fly zone, a temporary restriction of 30 aeronautical miles on the airspace that included Camp David and Emmitsburg, the site of the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial.
So the North American Aerospace Defense Command began dispatching fighter jets.
Four planes were escorted out of the area by F-16s, said Master Sgt. Anthony Hill of NORAD. They landed at nearby airports, where Secret Service agents followed up with the pilots, said Kim Bruce, a Secret Service spokeswoman.
Laura Brown, a spokeswoman for the FAA, said the agency will also interview the pilots. "They could face penalties including suspension of their pilot's license," she said.
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The two sides of this story need a reconciliation.
It is (arguably, but barely) necessary for the president to travel and to speak, even at fallen firefighters memorials, but at what cost? Two or three million bucks? Just to make what is clearly a political statement and inconvenience a bunch of ordinary folks. We've gone from Ernest Hemingway's Movable Feast to George Bush's Movable No-Fly zone. Unfortunately, only one is good reading.
I don't know if you've been to an antique plane fly-in or not. They're a lot of fun and nostalgic, as well as extremely accessible. Owner-pilots love to talk about their planes. There are always a few stunt planes in attendance, often on a grass field and kids as well as adults have a great time.
Contrasted with a presidential intrusion, where no one has a great time.
The Hagerstown even is annual and benefits two nonprofit groups, the Experimental Aircraft Association and the Hagerstown Aviation Museum and offers free plane rides for kids. Tracey Potter spent more than six months organizing the event, getting insurance, coordinating schedules and so on, only to learn about the temporary airspace restrictions. "It really killed our event. . . . It's a real kick in the head."
Welcome to this paranoid administration's version of homeland security. Gonna have to get a radio for that 1937 Ryan.
Laura Brown at the FAA and and Kim Bruce at Secret Service were typically arrogant about the failings of American citizens to fully check out the latest government restriction--chill, Laura and Kim--the restrictions are becoming monumental. It's really hard to know if a barbecue or outdoor wedding or antique plane fly-in might be against the rules.
The sky is falling, Chicken Little. Reconciliation might begin with lowering the paranoia and recognizing that if you can parade a president down a residential street, you ought to be able to transport him without inconveniencing 3,600 square miles of citizenry for a half-hour speech.
This FAA-Secret Service attitude of 'tough shit, read the handouts' is intolerable (or used to be) in America.

* For more in-depth articles by Jim on Homeland Security, check out Opinion-Columns.com