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Plane spotters allege harassment at Connecticut airport

The plane spotters went to the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut to complain after repeatedly being thrown off Bradley International Airport property and told by police their activities are illegal. ( More...

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Dave Mills 21
If these Connecticut officials were smart instead of mired in their rigid, mindless, bureaucratic nonsense, they'd follow the lead of airports like Toronto, Chicago and Miami that have, in fact, officially engaged the spotters as additional eyes. The spotters are people, often pilots, who can recognize irregular airport activities better than some state trooper.

Put another way, the Connecticut mindset as described in "Stepford Wives":

Claire Wellington: I asked myself, "Where would people never notice a town full of robots? Connecticut."
Jason Feldman 1
Dave - you think that Chicago has a good attitude towards spotters? How did you come up with that opinion. In the 31 years of spotting at ORD I have seen a dramatic shift from "live and let live" to "get out of here before I arrest you". It depends on what police officer you run into, and showing my airport ID, ATP certificate, heck, even my full blown uniform didn't stop one officer from actually handcuffing me and putting me in the back-seat of his cruiser before he even asked any questions about a year after 9/11. If you have any good places to spot from, please share
preacher1 2
Jason: look up above at a new post that just came in about the group at Bensenville. There was an FA article on them awhile back. If you are able, check in to it.
Dave Mills 2
If it's helpful Jason, see
s2v8377 1
Sorry to hear ORD is like that. I'm taking it off my list of airports to visit for airliner photography.

I'm sad but not surprised to read what happened to you.
dg1941 16
Photographing airplanes, illegal? So I have nearly 68,000 counts of illegal photography then?
This isn't about kiddie porn pics.
Ric Wernicke 4
Nothing strikes fear into the hearts of those doing evil than photography. There are few places where photography is prohibited in the USA. Such prohibition has to have a clear reason to abridge the first amendment to the Constitution. Interior of airport customs halls are an example where photos are prohibited. No point is telegraphing how we intercept contraband to criminals.

Photographing airport exteriors and planes using the public airspace are allowed, and any attempt by authorities that interfere with citizens rights should be prosecuted as a civil rights violation. Just to answer the complaint will cost the authority about 25K.

Just a few such suits will encourage civil behavior by authorities. Just ask El Segundo if they have problems with LAX plane spotters on Imperial Hill. They installed benches and tables in what now amounts to a sidewalk width park. I expect construction of a restroom anytime.
Pa Thomas 4

If they had taken a gun along while walking around the airport they would have been ok.


(Had this been actual snark, it would have not been preceded by the sarcasm warning.)
s2v8377 3
As mush as I love airliner photography. The hobby certainly gets less and less fun every year as stories like this become more and more common everywhere.

It's no fun when you're in a public area following and respecting "ALL" locals laws / regulations and still have to worry about finding yourself in a bad situation.
Russ Nelson 1
When is protecting everyone's freedom "a bad situation"? You don't have to swear an oath and wear a uniform to defend the Constitution.
biz jets 3
I recall two spotters in the 70's visiting Yugoslavia where jailed for 5 years for writing down tail numbers, and a friend of mine was arrested in Mexico City spotting in the 70's - sad to watch American's lose their freedoms more everyday.
Jason Feldman 7
it is sad, that people rather trade in ALL their freedoms for "perceived" security. So many people have died for our freedoms, and now the public has been demanding that the government take them away. Every call to the police about a suspicious person with a camera is a "vote" to take away yet another freedom.
siriusloon 2
It also happened approx ten years ago to some Brits in Greece, although the particular spotters in question were well-known for things such as breaking into locked hangars to get tail numbers, ignoring security guards, and entering restricted areas as if it was their God-given right to do so, even on a military base in a foreign country.
michadm1 3
This was a main concern for myself and other spotters, more and more our freedoms were being squeezed. We still have to change the culture of the people who see us as a threat because of a camera with a long lens. Also the airport officials need to allow us as a help to airport security not a hindrance.
Dennis at the Ct Plane Spotters,
zennermd 7
I will take that one step farther. Our freedoms in general are being squeezed, but our youth doesn't seem to notice because they seem too distracted by unimportant things such as social media and celebrity news.
ltcjra 4
Amen (unfortunately)!
preacher1 7
911 changed the world just as Pearl Harbor did in 1941. Problem is, nobody has found a happy medium yet and things will probably get worse in some quarters before they get better
tom treutlein 1
Sadly quite true.
We in the railfan community have been experiencing similar harassment when photographing trains from public areas, such as Chicago Metra stations and public roadways bordering railroad yards. It is interesting to note that in every case that has actually gone to court, the railfans have won.
Rod Williams 3
Same deal with rail fans. We can be the extra eyes and ears contributing to security. We would be the first ones to notice anything wrong but more often than not are treated as a nuisance.
Dave Hos 3
I've been watching planes there for the last three years on almost a daily basis. I have taken thousands of pictures from many locations. I have never tried standing on the nice lookout hill that is in question but it sure would be a great place to watch from. I work near by but have never walked over to the spot and obviously parking there will get you a very quick response from the State troopers which I try to avoid.

The cell phone lot is alright for watching but terrible for pictures. The other spectator lot along Rt.20 is alright and I've never been told I can't take pictures from there. Heck everyday there's little kids and adults usually standing along that fence watching. I would love for the airport to look at the positives of having spotters there rather than push away the plane lovers. If they want people to spend hundreds of dollars to buy a ticket wouldn't you want to open up to the people who love being around planes so that they can pass along their knowledge and interest?

I wish I was a rich man and could have purchased the old Valet parking lot right along Runway 6. Would have turned it into a little restaurant with a big open deck and just let people sit out and enjoy the planes and view.Heck the airport should have done this and sold all their Bradley merchandise there.

Hopefully someday they will embrace the plane spotting people.
chazzie 3
I had a bit of a "run-in" with the authorites at Austin/Bergstrom last year. It was a beautiful and warm Texas evening and being from Europe driving trough the south I opted to enjoy some spotting and photography instead of going back to the hotel.

It was a descision in "the moment" so I hadn't done my homework to find spots, however, with the use of the car GPS me and my friend figured out some spots that would work, and even though we were at a parking lot (private I guess), not interfering with anyone and being the only car there, some woman came out to have a smoke in one of the offices and proceeded to talk on her cell phone. I told my friend; "now the cops will show up", and indeed they did.

Now, kudos to the police woman that got the call, she was very nice and said that it wasn't illegal by any means, but there was actually a dedicated area where we wouldn't "freak people out". She proceeded to draw us a map and checked our IDs, and as we didn't carry our passports and she let us get by on our Swedish driver's licenses, we got cut some slack there I guess.

We went to the spot on the map and it was indeed a nice spot, I managed to get a few nice shots of airlines I usually don't see over in Europe and in March weather not found in Sweden =}

While a bit sad that people have got to be this scared and paranoid, I do appreciate that the airport built some facilites to accomodate spotters, not fancy by any stretch of imagination, but enough for a day out spotting if you bring some snacks and water.

Anyways, I've found some spotting sites on the net for my upcoming two US trips where I've studied the spots for some airports I might go taking pictures. Hopefully I won't run into any major problems, and in all fairness most law enforcement I've crossed paths with all over the world have been decent and done their job well, but there's always those guys...
steve rogers 2
there are pics uploaded on line all over the world every seconds of the day from people like us , the folks at Bradley better get with the program , or they are going to look like morons .
dmanuel 2
Perhaps the airport officials should watch and learn from the 1951 movie 'The day the Earth stood still'
Reporter: I suppose you are just as scared as the rest of us.
Klaatu: In a different way, perhaps. I am fearful when I see people substituting fear for reason.
ken young 2
KCLT has an airport observation area which over looks RWY 18C/36C....I go there once in a while with my scanner....Not many photogs there though. Some people shoot videos. Fewer shoot stills.
It's a cool place to hang out if you're an aviation buff
Mark Thomas 2
As a frequent spotter in Toronto I have been asked to leave the airport numerous times by police. Some officers are polite, some are not. My attitude toward this is this... Right or wrong, THEY are in authority at that time and it will do you no earthly good to argue rights with a police officer! I politely acknowledge the order to leave and do so immediately. I have much better things to do than spend my afternoon in a police car or holding cell. Taking the whole issue to court might just end up making matters worse in my opinion. I guess it just depends on where you're from, in Miami there are purpose built holes in the fence strictly for photographers! Go figure! In Europe you see guys climbing ladders to clear the fence, not to mention the exquisite spotting locations there...
preacher1 7
Right, wrong or indifferent, that is called common sense my friend. It seems to have been on the decline in recent years.
jbqwik 2
Yet another example of paranoid and ill-conceived policy. I wouldn't want these guys doing security at a ball game..
American society is getting more and more neurotic. What happened to common-sense?
Russ Nelson 1
I think you mean "cowardly" rather than "neurotic". We really need to start shaming people who are afraid of terrorism. Are they more afraid of lightning? They should be -- it kills 4X as many people!
Montreal has a purpose built park for plane spotters right next to the perimeter fence with good sight lines, there are also several unofficial spots around. The park even has bleachers installed so you are a bit higher. I have never heard of any interference by authorities.
steve rogers 2
in Toronto there are a few choice spots to indulge in your hobby , as long as you are not parked illegally or blocking traffic , cops or security wont bother you , I have never been hassled at toronto pearson's over 30 years of plane spotting .
preacher1 3
Not speaking about the whole world as there are some good comments here but everybody has jumped in on the side of the spotters. In reading the story, it seems there may be another side to this thing that we are not hearing. It sounds like some obstinance of "just because I should be able to" rather than trying to work with the Airport. that is just my opinion.
michadm1 8
Kevin Dillon from the CAA mentions in article:"At one point, staff here tried to accommodate them even in non-publicly accessible areas if they called in advance," he said. "This particular group did not want to do that."

That statement is totally false since spotters did call OPS but eventually without explanation they refused us access plus some members were kicked off the public road along the fence. At no time did any illegal activity by spotters happen where we were trespassing or parking our vehicles in no parking areas. We met to find answers to State Police keeping us from photographing aircraft, we felt the answer was unjustified so we contacted the ACLU for guidance.
Dennis Michaud Connecticut Airplane Spotters
pfp217 4
I'm sure there are others like it, but the Bensenville police and local spotters started an organization called the ORD Plane Watch (paraphrased). They go through a training with the police department and are then added to an approved list. The police get to know the members of the group and leave them alone.

I think this is a great idea, and in fact enhances security. Why not have an extra set of eyes (non paid at that! )along the perimeter to report suspicious activity!
, and of course we all get to enjoy their photography!
David Stark 3
That's a nice example of cooperation, I guess, but it really falls in line with the idea of the government "certifying" who is a member of "the press" according to their own standards. Why should law-abiding citizens have to be "trained" by the police to use public areas?
michadm1 2
We also mentioned during our meeting with the CAA and State Police that we could be an asset to the Airport as another set of eyes for security. We showed examples of other airports and how well they work with spotters. They didn't go for the idea at all along with other valid points myself and a very knowledgeable spotter gave them during our one hour meeting. All we got out of the meeting was we will get back to you on a couple of locations we requested and they threw us a bone for a location which was the cell phone lot that is surrounded by fences and no view of the terminal area.
Dennis Michaud Connecticut Plane Spotters
preacher1 1
Seems to me there was an FA article on this group a few months back.

[This poster has been suspended.]

preacher1 1
Young and old officers alike, this is a problem coming up as things have changed. It used to be once in a blue moon but now it is not uncommon for an officer to lose their life daily or weekly, somewhere in the world, or at least have a confrontation that could lead to it. It used to be that they gave the benefit of doubt to people but now it is guilty until proven innocent and that guilt is in the eye of the officer. It ain't pretty but that is how it is.
Robert Hirst 1
You can even get pretty good visuals of Andrews AFB with both AF Ones on the tarmac... using Google Earth! Talk about base security. ..
Chris Muncy 1
So, were they in restricted areas and asked to leave and through a hissy fit or was it they were along the fence line and people reported suspicious activities?
michadm1 3
No spotter was ever in a restricted area at Bradley airport, when we were told a small hill that gave us a good site line to taxiing traffic and arrivals and departures was off limits some spotters started to walk the road, even then they were told to get out. Civilians supposedly called police when they saw long lens camera's which frightened then under the See Something Say Something mantra, the State Police felt it was easier to kick us out then to allow us to stay under our Constitutional Rights. Any open area around the airport has No Parking signs preventing anyone from parking to get a good photo of aircraft. There are at least two areas that could easily accommodate a few vehicles and aviation enthusiasts and could easily be patrolled.
Dennis Michaud Connecticut Plane Spotters
David Stark 2
Another "common sense" idea that nobody seems to consider: Why would terrorists planning an attack draw attention to themselves with giant camera lenses?
WhiteKnight77 1
Common sense isn't so common anymore.
jmilleratp 1
I've been detained for 40 minutes by the Memphis Police for photographing aircraft outside the boundary of Memphis International. The aircraft were taking off to the south, and the National Air Guard Base was below the flightpath. So, the base cops called the Memphis Police to come harass me. I got placed in the back of the twitchy-nervous officer's car for 10 or so of those minutes. Plus, I had to show him ALL of the photos on my card to prove no photos of the base were taken. He claimed that it is illegal to take ANY photo of ANY military installation.
michadm1 11
Taking pictures of a military installation from outside a gate but yet Google Earth can show clear detailed pictures from above even including the type of aircraft. Yep makes lots of sense.
preacher1 3
Well, seems to me there is that paranoid photography rule at all military installations, but like all else, it just depends on who is enforcing it.
Russ Nelson 1
Officers have an incentive to be unaware of the law. If something is settled law, they can be personally sued for violating your civil rights. If, on the other hand, something is uncertain, they can remain ignorant, and not be at fault for violating your rights.
Kevin Fortney 1
This is a tough subject. After 9-11, we, as Americans, lost some of out freedoms. I feel taking pictures is not a right, but a privilege. I would expect some day that all photography would be banned around airports due to security concerns. So far, law enforcement has been cooperative. With me and even suggested I use a ladder to shoot over the barbed wire as we are not allowed within 4 feet of the fence. I do get called into police all the time while using my ladder with people saying I am trying to climb over the fence to which officers do respond and find what I am doing is within the rules they have set up. Bottom line, I feel plane spotting as far as photography.... Out days could very well be numbered. I hope not, but security is a priority and why we do is minescule to the big picture of airport security.
Russ Nelson 1
You're welcome to think that taking pictures is not a right. The Supreme Court disagrees with you.
David Stark 1

Airbus tweeted the following about 2 hours ago:

"Have you #planespotted the #Beluga? Tag your tweets #BelugaBD and we'll share our favourites!"

The manufacturers appreciate the attention, while America turns hostile to planespotting.
Tom Lyons 1
The Metropolitan Airport Commission at KMSP have set up a cell phone lot across from Post Road along Rwy 12R/30L that is pretty well located for plane-spotting but the airport is running more departing traffic south off of Rwy 17 because of neighborhood noise concerns and there just isn't a good place there to observe flight ops. There is a dog park that is a good place to watch 12/30 takeoffs and landings if you don't mind being regularly greeted by enthusiastic canines and the road along said park is technically "no parking" - but the Aiport and Richfield police are pretty lenient as long as you maintain fence security distances.

I would guess most domestic airports have limited the runway viewing access that was pretty much available pre-9/11 and this would certainly be an "anniversary" week where tighter enforcement would be maintained.
preacher1 2
Ain't nothing like it was pre911. Used to be many fine restaurants at various airports you could go too, have a nice meal and enjoy the flightline. Now, they have either moved inside security or folded up because of no local support as they had.
tdrane 1
Kurt Anderson 1
Police are (or should be) trained to recognize people that don't belong near these airports. I understand people are nervous about these things but me and my friends know this airport very well and I would not hesitate to call in anything I did not think belong there.
Plane spotters now have a new label "The Planerazzi" Bahahaha!
preacher1 1
There are spotter groups for almost everything, particularly for the rails. Same thing, some RR's don't want you on their property, others don't care. It is their property and they can do as they wish. Other than being publicly funded, same thing with Airports. rails didn't go thru 911 though they did beef up security around their major hubs. Sad though, that paranoia is still running high 13 years late.
Ed Mentz 1
It is ok for photo at NY mta, but their PD don't want to hear it. Nothing is worse than a LIRR butch with a badge.
smoki 1
This should come as no surprise. We live in a country now where the Constitution is ignored and dismissed, where law enforcement officials at all levels make up laws on the spot to suit their personal preferences, where false reports and misdeeds by the ruling elites are the norm, where Americans are arrested and detained on trumped up charges that have no basis in law, etc. We have a U.S. President who has made it quite clear that he has no intention of conforming to the Constitution by going around Congress whenever they don't do his bidding, that he has a pen and phone to make law whenever and wherever the mood strikes him while members of his political party in Congress encourage and applaud him for it. In sum we no longer live in a democratic republic under the rule of law. Instead we live in a dictatorship, an observation which many scoff at but only because it has gradually sneaked up on them without realizing it or they are simply in denial for the sake of political correctness.
Kurt Anderson 1
Smoki, thanks for the reply. Anymore the USA is just a country of sheep. I cant' figure out what mystical power Obama has over his voters but we have seen in just a few years what he is doing to our country. I am 67 and not in the best of health but I fight this nonsense any way I can. I wont be around for a lot of years but it tears me apart to see what my kids and grandkids have to look forward to and live thru.
Russ Nelson 1
WE aren't a country of sheep. Our politicians, on the other hand, are cowards and generally asshats. Voting in different politicians won't change that fact. Taking power away from them is the only solution. We have long asked for more and more from our government, and this mess is what we have gotten. Time to ask for less and less from the asshats.
Kenneth Morrow -1


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