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Thread: So...I guess I violated the FAA's Policy against Photographing Aircraft?

  1. #1
    Senior Member NickPeterman's Avatar
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    So...I guess I violated the FAA's Policy against Photographing Aircraft?

    Or at least a Richmond Airport Police Officer would have had me believe this afternoon. See, NYC doesn't have the monopoly on ... interesting airport LEO's. I figure the full (however short) story is warranted.

    I went down to KRIC (a fairly small airport) around 1500ish this afternoon to catch a DL 757 (rare for KRIC) and just take in some planes as it had been a while. Upon arriving, I discovered they had switched up the pattern, and photos weren't really possible. I had initially parked at the museum located near/on the airport, but drove to a nearby gas station to grab a drink. Upon returning to the museum I decided to walk around and check out the A-7D, F-14D, and SR-71 on display outside and maybe wait to see if I could get the Airtran 717 departing with the moon in frame. I did this for a bit, all with the camera disassembled and in a bag in the car. A few minutes later when I saw something was scheduled to depart, I set up the camera snagged maybe 7-8 photos of the departure and that was it. Shortly thereafter, an Airport PD car, which had driven right by me before and waved/nodded at me, came by, did a loop around the parking lot, and our encounter went roughly like this after exchanging greetings...

    Officer: "Are you taking photos of the airplanes landing?"

    Me: "Well I am taking photos of them taking off, but yes sir."

    Officer: "You can't do that, it is against FFA policy to photograph airplanes taking off or landing"

    Me: "Oh really? I apologize, I was unaware. I can move along if need be."

    Officer: Yes, that would be great (Note this last one is not a direct quote, but a general approximation of the sentiment he expressed)


    That was it. I wasn't asked for ID, and he was always pleasant enough, not menacing or anything. Obviously we are all aware that no such "FFA" née FAA policy exists, but given that he was so easily giving me a false policy, I didn't feel confident that if I pushed back at all that he couldn't just as easily fabricate an account of me being threatening, belligerent, or resisting him. In this case I rolled out and missed the photo I was hoping for, but it wasn't a priceless photo opportunity.

    I guess I am curious what you all would have done, and maybe what I can/should do going forward. I am not willing to perhaps be as assertive and/or, for lack of a better word, aggressive as some are in protecting their rights due to fear of encountering that one cop who might over-react and jeopardize my impending semester in Australia. However I am perplexed and admittedly somewhat disappointed at the prospect of losing the only airport within a 2 hour radius at which I could take photos while home in VA.

    Dejectedly yours,


    Nick

  2. #2
    Senior Member lijk604's Avatar
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    Nick, you did the right thing. You were not at your "home base" airport, not even home state, and like you said, he could have easily drummed up a charge that could hurt you in the end. I would have done the same. Better secure than sorry.

  3. #3
    Senior Member NickPeterman's Avatar
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    I guess I should clarify, as my parents are divorced, I am split roughly 50/50 between Richmond and Dallas, so in effect KRIC is my "home" airport, and indeed I hold a valid Virginia Driver's License with a Richmond address, not that it changes anything. I do think that caution was warranted. A bunch of people are saying I should reach out to airport PD to either inform them of the incident or to seek clarification on their official stance on the matter... any thoughts?

  4. #4
    Senior Member lijk604's Avatar
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    Post-incident follow-up, sure. At the very least you can speak to someone and not worry about being hauled off.
    There may not be an "FAA" rule, however, there may be an airport ordinance.
    Best thing that can happen is that you set a process for future visits. Good Luck!

  5. #5
    Senior Member RWB's Avatar
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    I'd talk to the airport manager or highest person there, even if the airport says it has such a policy ask them why they don't abide by it https://www.facebook.com/FlyRichmond...?stream_ref=10
    I wouldn't have volunteered to leave though.
    PANTS UP, DON'T LOOT!

  6. #6
    Member m.marra's Avatar
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    You definitely did the right thing by not causing a commotion with the officer. If you got his name, I would report the incident to his supervisor at RIC. This is my home airport and I shoot there all the time. I've yet to have an encounter with the Henrico or Airport PD. They cannot push FAA policy on me because my wife works for the FAA FSDO at RIC and they all know me. I would just pack up and leave like you did and call it a day. I wouldn't let it deter me from future outings though. That cop probably had nothing better to do and he just happened to run into you. Don't feel bad about it, even the FAA inspectors get visits from the Airport PD. On Thursday I was having lunch with my wife at RIC when the Airport PD stopped to check the inspectors credentials out on the ramp.

  7. #7
    Senior Member megatop412's Avatar
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    Nick unfortunately I'm going to have to be the black sheep here again and say that personally, I'm not sure that was the right thing to do. You weren't somewhere you were not supposed to be or engaging in behavior you were not supposed to be engaging in, and THAT is the very crux of the issue. I would have pressed the issue with the officer. I would not have apologized, I wouldn't have worried I'd never be able to take pictures there again, and I certainly would not have offered to move along. When he said it was against FAA policy, right away you know he's full of b.s. I understand the concern for your semester abroad, and the desire to prioritize that once-in-a lifetime experience over a few minutes of standing your ground. I of course can't say for sure that if you had done that, you would have missed your trip. Nick I know you're a humble person, but for one time you might have broken out some of those kicka*s shots of yours and bragged about your anet top of the day achievements. At the very least, I would have said "Really? I need to follow up on what you're telling me, because there's actually no such law. As an aviation photographer, I would be aware of such a law as it would be detrimental to my livelihood".

    If we live in the United States, we are responsible for exercising the freedoms that we are accorded as citizens of this great country. To go along with the police's general sentiment that we as a group are more nuisance than not, does injustice to these freedoms and is an insult to the folks who died protecting them. In my mind, offering to move along is basically confirming to the police that they are right, and that we really do not have a right to be out taking pictures in PUBLIC, and that we should instead be at the mall or on our smartphones while ignoring the world around us. Meanwhile, we are surrounded by their cameras, all of our behaviors recorded and stored in some massive secret government archive, tagged and available for their inspection at any time, alongside our phone calls and emails. Screw that.

    You all can do what you want, but I can't allow that sort of interruption to my personal, legal, hobby. I know that at some point, somebody somewhere will tell me to move along for no legal reason and I guess we'll find out what happens next. Hopefully I won't be getting married the next day or something similar to Nick's situation, because that truly is a tough call.

    I'll leave you with this. Imagine had the Boston Marathon had a 'no photography' policy. Those bastards could still be running free out there. Thanks to a photographer, one is dead as he should be and the other is at least behind bars.

  8. #8
    Program Coordinator
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    I would've pushed back and suggested that I'd been spotting here or other places many many times and never had a problem - at least get him to give you more than 'it's illegal'. I would not have volunteered to go, and I would've tried to get his badge number. That being said, after spending years in social services I know what an arrest on your record (even a totally bogus one) can do - so I can't say I'd've pushed very hard. Either way, I'd absolutely file a complaint afterward and make sure to chase it down.
    Last edited by jerslice; 01-14-2014 at 09:29 PM.

  9. #9
    Senior Member NIKV69's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by megatop412 View Post
    Nick unfortunately I'm going to have to be the black sheep here again and say that personally, I'm not sure that was the right thing to do. You weren't somewhere you were not supposed to be or engaging in behavior you were not supposed to be engaging in, and THAT is the very crux of the issue. I would have pressed the issue with the officer. I would not have apologized, I wouldn't have worried I'd never be able to take pictures there again, and I certainly would not have offered to move along. When he said it was against FAA policy, right away you know he's full of b.s.
    To take it a step further I think the officer should be reported. If a law enforcement officers does not act professionally, and making up laws sure isn't professional they need to be held to account. It will make them think twice of doing this. Go to their precinct, ask to speak to their supervisor and tell them exactly what happened.
    'My idea of a good picture is one that's in focus and of a famous person doing something unfamous.' Andy Warhol

  10. #10
    Senior Member RomNYC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by megatop412 View Post
    one is dead as he should be.
    Tsk. No need to go that far.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Gerard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lijk604 View Post
    There may not be an "FAA" rule, however, there may be an airport ordinance.
    Really dont you pay attention? It's the FFA buster and you damn well better abide by their rules and regulations or off to the clink with you!!

  12. #12
    Senior Member NickPeterman's Avatar
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    William, there is no need to be sorry! If one was not willing to consider, and I daresay interested in hearing, contrary opinions-well they certainly shouldn't post anything online. I think you make an excellent point, it certainly was a decision I made after weighing other exigent circumstances-and I certainly may have erred too greatly on the side of caution! Usually I would have been far more assertive in at least attempting to establish their understanding of where the "boundary" of this activity is, if only to have a starting off point to create a consensus on what would be acceptable in their eyes going forward.

    As to filing some sort of a report... the idea doesn't turn me off per se, but as I do not have his name, was not quoted anything beyond this amorphous FFA policy, and furthermore, I can find nothing but a phone number for Richmond Airport PD-I am not sure how to proceed whatsoever. Furthermore... couldn't this nameless officer in question (who I would honestly be able to help ID only through a statement on his race, which seems profiling-ish) simply deny the encounter occurred as I described? Word of a "suspicious" photographer against a Cop... who wins?


    Nick

  13. #13
    Senior Member NIKV69's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RomNYC View Post
    Tsk. No need to go that far.
    Why? We owe terrorists some sort of decorum? He blew up innocent people. Who cares. I am glad he died in the street and got run over. I am just disappointed they didn't firebomb the boat so the taxpayers didn't have to feed his brother now.
    'My idea of a good picture is one that's in focus and of a famous person doing something unfamous.' Andy Warhol

  14. #14
    Senior Member moose135's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NIKV69 View Post
    Why? We owe terrorists some sort of decorum? He blew up innocent people. Who cares. I am glad he died in the street and got run over. I am just disappointed they didn't firebomb the boat so the taxpayers didn't have to feed his brother now.
    Because we are a nation of laws. Taking retribution without following the law of the land makes us no better than the terrorists.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Mateo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by megatop412 View Post
    I would have said "Really? I need to follow up on what you're telling me, because there's actually no such law. As an aviation photographer, I would be aware of such a law as it would be detrimental to my livelihood".
    This would actually open up a whole new can of worms, since you typically require a permit or some type of approval for commercial photography. If you started to talk about your livelihood as a photographer, you're conducting unsanctioned commercial activity on airport grounds. Most photography policies allow for private non-commercial photography (tourism, hobby, etc..), but if it's a business and you're making money off of it, you need a permit, proof of liability insurance, etc..

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