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Thread: Two days in a row at PHL

  1. #1
    Senior Member megatop412's Avatar
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    Two days in a row at PHL

    Setting a new record for myself, I found myself speaking with authorities on two occasions, yesterday and today. They could not have been finer conversations.

    Yesterday a Tinicum Township slicktop pulled up behind me on Hog Island Rd, the perimeter road around Philly Int'l. The cop, seemed to be about my age, was extremely polite, even conversational. He asked about my scanner and wanted to see some of the shots I was taking, and seemed to understand what it meant to just be planewatching. He seemed to be equating it to any other pastime people enjoy. I said "Are you kidding? I LOVE it when people ask to see my work". He even pointed out an arriving AA ERJ145 and I zoomed the camera around to catch it, but the second shot was obscured by a passing UPS truck(this happens often on that road). I instinctively raised my fist at the truck and said "Aarrrgh!" which made the guy laugh, surprisingly. Then he said "well, I'm gonna go grab some lunch. Have a nice day." I replied "Right on" and went back to my business. He made a u-turn, put the hammer down and that Crown Vic screamed down the road.


    Today, I was standing in almost the same spot, this time with another spotter, when a minivan with US Government plates pulls up behind us. A man and woman got out, both wearing US Coast Guard uniforms. After we exchanged hellos, I went "US Coast Guard???" They explained they were part of some kind of unit, I forget the name, it was 'event response' something or other, they had been surveying the little Sunoco port where gas/crude/not sure is offloaded from tanker ships and pumped into large storage tanks that were behind us, which I guess is part of what they do because it's a port and it's their business. Fine with me. Anyway, same deal, "we saw you guys standing there and wanted to make sure you weren't surveilling the refinery, can we see your photos, blah blah blah". The girl said she was a photographer so...I chatted her up while the other spotter talked to the guy. Soon, they were on their way, with a better understanding of what we do.

    In both instances, I could have said "I don't have to show you any photos/I'm not doing anything wrong/This is ridiculous/blah blah blah". Instead, I said "Would you like to see shots on the camera or would you like to see prints? Here's my card- go on the website, bookmark it, and be sure to leave comments." I talked nonstop to them and the cop yesterday, explaining that we're basically FREE, extra sets of eyes for them, we're there all the time, we really need to have an airport watch program like they do in other cities, etc" One thing I made sure to mention in both instances was that I would never accept someone telling me taking pictures of planes is illegal because of '9/11', that that very line of thinking drove my nuts, and that anyone who tries to sell me that line is in for a rant. They both said no rant was needed and were also soon on their way. I ALSO could have said that I was perfectly within my legal rights to take pictures of the gas tanks if I wanted to, as I was not on private property. But that would have distracted away from the more important points we were making. Maybe if I wasn't in the midst of shooting aviation, I would have gone that route. Bottom line is, you pick your battles, you choose your words, and turn on the charm machine, and MOST of the time, everyone walks away a better person for it.

    Note: side effects may include this strategy not working with select individuals having a bad day, poor attitude, or ignorance

  2. #2
    Senior Member yankees368's Avatar
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    All interactions I've ever had with any law enforcement agency, other than PANYNJ PD, has been pleasant. Nassau County, NYPD, NY State Troopers. Being nice is the best method, but that usually has no effect on PAPD.
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  3. #3
    Senior Member lijk604's Avatar
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    Good show William. Common sense rules again! You are educating the authorities, while being polite the whole time. Glad to hear all went smooth for you.

  4. #4
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    I spotted at PHL on top of one of the parking lots last year for two full days in a row. Not once did anyone approach me or anything. I even saw some cops circling the lot, but they didn't seem too bothered by my presence there. They don't seem as paranoid as some of the other aforementioned police agencies.

  5. #5
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    Thought I had the PD trained down here at PHL. I haven't heard of any PD 'problems' in awhile - and I'm there almost every day. Although we did have some report a person pointing a rifle at planes. Once the PD seen they were camera's, they left.
    Expanding Beyond PHL
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    Quote Originally Posted by runway27r View Post
    Thought I had the PD trained down here at PHL. I haven't heard of any PD 'problems' in awhile - and I'm there almost every day. Although we did have some report a person pointing a rifle at planes. Once the PD seen they were camera's, they left.
    I'd love to know the conversation behind the scenes in the cop car when they get one of these calls. It's probably something on the order of: "here we go again... Probably just a guy with a camera, but we've gotta go check it out."

  7. #7
    Senior Member megatop412's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by runway27r View Post
    Thought I had the PD trained down here at PHL. I haven't heard of any PD 'problems' in awhile - and I'm there almost every day. Although we did have some report a person pointing a rifle at planes. Once the PD seen they were camera's, they left.
    I still can't believe that happened, and I'm surprised the damn swat team didn't sweep down on you all that day, as misinformed as they would have been

  8. #8
    Senior Member Steven Holzinger's Avatar
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    I wish I had gotten a better look at the "badge" the plainclothes "officers" flashed at me the day of the Army-Navy game right before Biden came in. They were cool guys though and quickly realized I wasn't really a threat...

  9. #9
    Senior Member Aviation.High.Guy's Avatar
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    So, with all of us spotters having been approached by law enforcement at one time or another, I beg to ask the question: Have officials have ever stopped a photographer shooting airliners in the U.S. that proved to be a real threat- espionage, terrorism?
    I would think the number of documented perps would be real low, if any at all. I mean what could someone with malicious intent potentially learn by shooting pics outside airport property, that he couldn't easily find readily available on internet?

    I realize this kind of vigilance is important post-911, but just curious about the metrics. Has there
    ever been a "bad guy" plane photog nabbed that made news?

    (Forgive me if this question has been addressed before. I'm a newbie to the site, although a longtime plane planespotter.)
    -Don B.

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