View Full Version : 02/19/05 - JFK

2005-08-01, 09:36 PM
I know I am writing this nearly six months after the incident, but I was unable to find time to write this. Now I have, so read on..

I began taking photographs of aircraft on 19 February 2004. My first experience was runway 31R arrivals at JFK. So, to top off a year of spotting, I decided to head out to JFK the following year with dad. It was a pretty cold morning when we arrived, and I began spotting just off of Rockaway Blvd. (I hadn't discovered the Costco parking lot at the time). While we there, I managed to get some nice shots but then we got hungry.

We decided to head up the road toward Burger King and the other fast food places. We ate at Burger King, and the entire time, I stared out the window watching plane after plane go by, missing many great shots. We hurried eating and when finished, we decided to try spotting at another location. This location was in a residential area; I believe the streets were East Avenue and Meyer Avenue. So I began spotting over in that area, and I managed to capture my first Airbus A340-600 shot. It was nice to see that long bird rush past. My dad and myself stayed over in that area for about an hour or two, when the unthinkable happened..

Yes, the cops rolled up behind us. The man stepped out of his car and approached us. He told us that he got a few calls from people in the neighborhood stating that two people were taking photographs of aircraft. He asked to see my dad's driver's license and then said, "you guys don't look like terrorists." The man was very nice and we even started talking to him about how I aspire to become a pilot. He told us to leave the area, as to not upset the neighbors, but again, he was a very nice person. Just when we were about to drive off, another cop car pulls up out of nowhere and stopped us from leaving. A man exited the car, and this guy wasn't the good cop.

This man felt that he needed to ask more questions and asked to see my dad's license and blah blah.. So we're there, and the man goes to his car to verify things. Then my dad rolls down the window (I was sitting in the back seat) and the man looks in. He asks why my hands are in my pocket. I mean CLEARLY it was a cold day. This guy just needed to look like he was making a bust or something. Then he sees my flight list on the seat and takes it away. He takes the list over to his car and begins copying information down. He returns in about three minutes and says, "I'll need to take this as evidence." Evidence of what?? This man really upset me. Next he asked to see my camera, and I showed him the pictures. He said, "most spotters we get at Costco take pictures of the side of the aircraft, but you're getting the underside." Only reason for that is because it was the only spot that I knew of at the time. He then took a bunch of information from dad (occupation, age, ethnic descent, birthdate, etc etc). The man said that was all, and told us to leave the area. We left, but I was dumb scared. It was my first time having an encounter with the cops, and they took a bunch of info from my dad; I still feel guilty to this day.

And another thing. When the second cop treated us like we were doing something terribly wrong, he commented on how ever since September 11, 2001, activity such as this is very suspicious and can be seen as terrorist related. That deeply offended me as I lost a cousin aboard one of the hijacked flights. I'm angry that terrorists would bring down multiple aircraft and inncocent people on board, but when someone hints at myself engaging in possible terrorist activity, then that's just going over the top. Now I know the cop didn't know I lost a family member in 9-11, but even if I didn't, it's very disgusting to say something like that. I understand they're doing their job, but sometimes too much is too much.

2005-08-01, 09:48 PM
Michael, welcome to the world that is the NY spotting scene. Most of the time the cops are cool, but every once in a while you get the bad apple with a power trip. The trick is to realize that no matter what you do, they will always be there. We just have to go about our business, not trying to hide anything. And when you have to deal with the bad apples, you gotta learn to shrug it off and not feel bad about it. Even as recently as a week ago I had a cop tell me that my last name was suspicious (blatant profiling), but I bit my tongue and let him ramble on. Did we stop spotting, though? Nope.

Thanks for sharing your story! :)


2005-08-03, 02:49 PM
Im surprised the first cop didnt say to the "ego tripper" that he had taken care of it already. And that you were leaving the area. Good story though, great way to get start aviation photography eehh??? lol

2005-09-12, 09:02 PM
Summer 1997-JFK-RWY 22R

This is my first post so I hope I'm doing this correctly. I just met you all at the Newark collectibles show. Reading Michael's story reminded me of my own JFK experience from several years ago. I was parked just across from the Post Office to get some RWY4L departure shots when a construction guy in, not kidding, a damn backhoe stops by the car and asks me if I'm with "OHSHA". When I say no, he says I can't be there, etc etc, then this PAPD car comes by and they give me the treatment, then a NYPD car rolls in and they started asking questions. I remember they took down a bunch of information and I had my mom's car so I had to give them her registration, I was still living out of state so when they saw my Indiana license that really perked 'em up. I remember the NYPD was like, "We're going to keep your information on file and if anything happens to any of these planes in the next 2 years, expect a phone call". Needless to say, when Swissair 111 went down 12 months later, I felt a bit...clammy. But no one ever called me. Since then I've been back many times to different areas and things have been mellow. And when I got my vintage Royal Jordanian B707 shooting the Costco approach to 31R fried hard onto some Kodak prints, I considered that payback.
Don't let it get to you. We'll do this until we're dead in the ground.

William Rizzo, "megatop412"

2005-09-12, 09:12 PM
William, welcome to the forums! I was one of the guys at the EWR show....approximately what time did you stop by the table?

Anyway, great report! That Royal Jordanian 707 sounds insane!

Josh Akbar

2005-09-12, 09:42 PM
Stopped by about 9:30-10:00. Was wearing the USAir shirt and Boeing hat. Grew up on Rockaway Turnpike in Lawrence between 31R and 31L. Used to watch Pan Am 747SP's and LOT IL-62's on short finals from my backyard. Yes the Jordanian 707 is swell, and as soon as I figure out how to upload to airliners.net you'll see it. Thanks for the welcome, looking forward to corresponding. Signing off for the evening...