The warrantless stops and searches of general aviation pilots and aircraft are continuing, according to reports from AOPA members who have had unexpected encounters with law enforcement.
AOPA has received multiple reports of stops in the past week alone. In one case, a father and his 14-year-old son were helping another pilot ferry a newly purchased aircraft from California to their home field in Virginia. The three made an overnight stop in Albuquerque before flying on to Illinois for fuel. But shortly after they parked the aircraft in Marion, Ill., they were approached by as many as 18 uniformed and non-uniformed law enforcement officers who came running toward the airplane.
The member who reported the incident to AOPA had been flying in the right seat but had exited the airplane and was assisting his physically disabled son across the ramp when they were surrounded. The member described the experience as “terrifying” and said the officers, some of whom were from the local sheriff’s department, treated him and his son as if they had already been convicted of some crime.
We’ve mentioned before this aggressive targeting of General Aviation pilots on the flimsiest of pretexts that they fit a “profile” of drug running- a profile so broad as to be essentially meaningless.
We’ve also long argued that the various police forces at federal, state and municipal levels have become the standing army that our Founding Fathers feared. Remember, the early Americans didn’t disdain the potential foreign entanglements of a standing army so much as they loathed the everyday use of the British Army as a general police power over the citizenry.
And a note on “consent” to search. The courts really need to revisit what constitutes a voluntary consent to search. Any sane person would view consent given in the circumstances here as under duress. Sadly, our courts don’t.