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Futterman
04-21-2005, 01:49 PM
April Fool's Day '05 was aptly named; in the grand scheme of things, I was a tad stupid (don't comment), especially considering the presence of the C-17 and the likelihood of “heightened security” (which was never brought up). This might be a little lengthy. Read on.

Earlier in the day, I checked the email community in school to see Ron's update about the Spirit A319 coming in for one of its first revenue flights. The 3 or 4PM arrival fit in perfectly with my dismissal from school and commute to the Central Terminal Building. It was perfect, so I made my way out to the airport.

I followed the normal routine--which I highly advise for anyone planning to spot by the windows in the main terminal, despite my story. Found one of the courtesy phones and dialed the extension for the PAPD, spoke to a sergeant and told them who I was and that, as an aviation enthusiast regularly visiting the airport with no conflicts, I was there to photograph airplanes. He said it was a-ok, and I knew he was going to send the regular pair of cops over to just make sure I was who I said I was. No problem. Felt good.

N501NK was on short final over the approach lights to 22 when Ron Peel tapped my shoulder. We chatted about Photoshop, watched the 319 taxi to its gate, then welcomed two PA officers as they came up the escalator.

Long story short, they were fine. One guy just stood there, gawking at his partner as he chatted with Ron and me about Airliners.net and LGA employees they both knew. It was hilarious. They left, and ten minutes later, Ron did as well.

I simply moved down to the lower level (where the rocking chairs used to be) for a slightly different perspective, and I wasn't there more than 5 minutes before Captain America showed up.

"HEY, waddaya think you're doin'?"
"I'm taking photos of airplanes..."
"Put that away."
"Actually, I've spoken with--"
"I don't care, put that away…I can arrest you right now and take you down to the damn station!"
Holding my camera and zipping up my bag to move with him, I said,
“Ok then, let’s go.”

He continued to bark at me a few more times, and because he had no good reason to be as intolerant as he was, I continued to defend myself.

As his partner began to approach from down the hall, he managed to quietly slip in a few explicatives.

"I told you to put that ****in' camera away, kid...put it in your ****in' bag."

I was a little surprised at him using language like that and getting as pissed as he did, although I could see why. Because he was clearly behaving irrationally, I wasn’t about to pack up and go home before I spoke to someone in a civilized manner. In fact, there were people sitting two feet away listening and watching the whole thing, so I’m surprised he was as much of a hothead as he was. We met up with his partner who unnecessarily told me to calm down, then proceeded to tell me something I had never heard before:

“So you’re just here to take photos of airplanes?”
“Yep, that’s what we (hinting at the existence of a larger group) do.”
“Ok, ok, that’s cool. You just have to understand that ever since 9/11, things have been pretty different and we’re just here to make sure you don’t have any other plans.”

Wow, really?

I liked this guy, though. He was diplomatic, calm, and respectful. I did my best to reciprocate, so I politely asked if I could interject with some information I thought he should be aware of.

“Thanks. First off, I just want to say that I do NOT appreciate anybody coming up to me with an attitude right off the bat, barking orders at me and cursing.”

Referring to his partner (‘his’ now meaning the good cop) of course, now quiet, he (the original cop) gasped.

“Now, as soon as I got here I called the Port Authority Police Department to let them know I’d be here…”

I went on to explain what I had done when I arrived, what happened with the two cops that showed up prior to them, and gave them a general idea of the things I had done that day and in the past with PA Ops and the PAPD in regards to spotting.

I was asked if I had gotten the name of the officer who gave me permission over the phone, which I had not. I did ask for, and get, the names of the officers I was currently with, which I ended up writing on my sweaty palm. I handed him my ID upon their request and he walked away with it and his cell phone for a few minutes to ask the PAPD if I really had called and been granted permission. It all checked out.

As this little fiasco drew to a close, I was advised to get written permission from the airport management and carry that around with me.

“Really…so who do you suggest I go to to get written permission?”
“You’d need to go to the airport manager (Kroeppel) and speak to his secretary.”

We thanked each other, shook hands, and went our own ways.

“Ah, wait, can I still take photos?”
“Yeah, sure, go ahead!”

Is it weird that I occasionally get that warm, fuzzy feeling in the airport? Some people who witnessed the whole thing asked me a question or two, then I ended up leaving the area. I was getting hungry, but my newfound inspiration to adhere to the officer’s advice soon got the better of me. I grabbed a light lunch, spoke to some Spirit MD80 pilots, and got two TSA officers (after my question) to direct me to the Port Authority if I wanted to take photos of aircraft. They themselves said it wasn’t any of their business, and they were only concerned with security checkpoints, not overall security.

Hey, let’s go to Hangar 7!

But alas, after 15 minutes of waiting, the Route A bus failed to show up so I was forced to make the journey by foot.

The idea to speak to Kroeppel’s secretary wasn’t a bad one—I had done it once or twice in the past and just intended to describe the situation I was in, advice I had been given, and leave some information.

But, as they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. In this case, it was Runway Drive, the road the looped around 04 and connected the terminals with the MAT.

I started walking along the old AA hangars with my smaller camera setup in hand, but only shot one photo of the building. Continued walking, down past the cargo depots and through to the next bus stop, where there was also a security checkpoint where catering trucks entered the tarmac. I’ve approached the guards there before to ask them if I could walk the semi-established walkway along Runway Drive, but failed to do so this time around. Mistake number one, although they probably would’ve said it was fine anyway.

Kept putting one foot in front of the other, along the grass and asphalt path. I stayed away from the fence, didn’t point my camera at anything, but I soon reached what was formerly the LGA topiary—and the end of my journey. Port SUV pulls up, calls me over, and I prepare to plead guilty to incompetence. To boot, his lights are flashing and it was a little humiliating to say the least.

I could only imagine Akbar driving on the GCP and seeing me pulled over in the very same spot I infamously stuck my lens through the fence a year or two ago.

In case you were wondering, that’s the climax of the story. It wasn’t really as big a scene as it may have looked…within a few minutes another two cops showed up, both nice, then one left. So now I had two cops in a PA SUV holding my ID and calling it in to the front desk so they can verify my information. I called my mom, they called my mom, she came, and I felt horrible.

The cop who saw me walking even told me that he sees employees and businessmen following the path every week, but just tells them to hurry up and decided to hold on to me because I had a camera. It took 45 minutes (!!) for them to get a positive response from the guys in the station. They did what they had to do, and I’m not blaming them for anything (although I did take down their names).

We shared some other information, nothing too profound, but I won’t go on as this post is already long enough.

I will just say though, that after telling Phil about this a few days later, he told me that he had walked the same exact path with Ander and the other out-of-towner earlier that day. They weren’t approached once.


So, all in all, I was fortunate enough to experience three different types of incidences in the span of only three hours. No lasting repercussions, I’m thankful for that, but it’s definitely not something I intend to do again any time soon.


Up for discussion.


Brian

PhilDernerJr
04-22-2005, 01:06 AM
Obviously that one PAPD cop int he terminal was out of line. Profanity and not evne letting you talk, and acting like photography is jsut hnot allowed is not right.

I've had a few encoutners with PAPD before, adn they are generally on the nice side, even when telling you to leave. I, too, am surprised by your story.

Teh thing that surprises me most is that you're young, adn you look it. No offense to Futterman, but does this kid whose thighs are thinner than his cmaera lens look that threatening?

Eitehr way, it's understandable that the police by airport road checked you. Unofrunate that it took 45 minutes.

Futt, what kind of ID do you have? You have your liscense or Learners Permit?

Futterman
04-22-2005, 12:41 PM
No offense to Futterman, but does this kid whose thighs are thinner than his cmaera lens look that threatening?

Well that's just it. For all they know, I could be on a reconnaissance mission for Tera ben al Airpurt for the very reason that I just "look like a kid." Obvious lack of skeletal muscle notwithstanding. :wink: I have no problem with having officers come by to check me out (as a result of my phone call), and I even look forward to it. But hey, **** happens.


Futt, what kind of ID do you have? You have your liscense or Learners Permit?

I don't have a liscense or learner's permit yet, not even a NYS Identification Card (which I should get if I don't get the former). You've seen what I have--it's photo ID, but distributed by my school. Has my picture, school name, DOB, and my name (plus erraneous digits and a barcode).

In fact, after seeing my ID, one of the very first cops I ever encountered at LGA told me that he went to my school and does a few laps around the track a few times a week!


Brian

cancidas
04-25-2005, 10:25 AM
brian, i think there is just something about you that invokes a problem when you walk by that fence.

rod945
09-22-2005, 04:30 AM
April Fool's Day '05 was aptly named; in the grand scheme of things, I was a tad stupid (don't comment), especially considering the presence of the C-17 and the likelihood of “heightened security” (which was never brought up). This might be a little lengthy. Read on.

Lol, okay i get it now.

rod945
09-22-2005, 04:30 AM
April Fool's Day '05 was aptly named; in the grand scheme of things, I was a tad stupid (don't comment), especially considering the presence of the C-17 and the likelihood of “heightened security” (which was never brought up). This might be a little lengthy. Read on.

Lol, okay i get it now.