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shamrock838
05-11-2007, 07:33 PM
Greetings to all ...

Being on vacation this week … and a lovely week it was ... I took the AirTrain from Jamaica to JFK on Wednesday, May 9, and got off at Terminal 4 since they have generous viewing platforms at each end of the upper (Departure) level. I arrived around 11am … which I’ve never done before ... I usually arrive at an airport on weekends later in the day.

The trip turned out to be a bust ... probably for the following reasons: - (1) I got there at a low volume time for flight/passenger traffic so there was little to see ... photograph ... or view through mini-binoculars; (2) security seemed v-e-r-y much in evidence … since business was slow? Then ... I may not have noticed them as much on past visits later in the day when flight/passenger volume is much higher; (3) in the previous 24-48 hours there had been the Fort Dix, NJ terrorist arrests … DUH … what was I thinking in coming to JFK at all?

QUESTION: - Did anyone else notice a spike in airport security after the Fort Dix thing earlier this week? Was the TSA on higher alert for anyone appearing even remotely suspicious that might have normally passed unnoticed?

OK … I first walked out to the right wing of Terminal 4 upper level … where it overlooks the Delta Terminal 2-3 complex. BTW I always look for the proximity of security before taking out my camera ... saw nothing nearby ... so I got two quick tele shots of colorful airliner tail fins … one of my spotter sub-specialties … really “subversive”! I then tucked my camera (a Canon D60 SLR with interchangeable 100-300mm tele) safely away as I n-e-v-e-r walk about with camera or binocs around my neck or even handheld.

If I see any security types in an area of interest to me I opt for discretion and go elsewhere with the hopes of coming back later. I thought once of asking them outright if it was OK to take pictures. NAH!! What would say ... "Sure ... be our guest." I don't think so. Of course I run the risk of missing some really interesting aircraft that may have since departed … oh well. Looking around and checking for security is a art in itself … how not to appear furtive ... like I was up to no good. Me an upright, loyal American senior citizen military vet trying not to act like I was a terrorist-type enemy of the state! More on that in another post.

So ... I then casually walked to the other wing that looks out toward the old TWA Terminal 5. I passed some TSA types at the main entrance to the Departures check-in level who seemed preoccupied with their business. At the far end of the wing I saw a cluster of JetBlue A320’s parked at a distance and I wanted to “collect” their individual “blue-names” … another of my subversive spotter sub-specialties. Owing to distance and the limit of my Canon 100-300mm tele … I just took my mini-binocs (8-20x zoom) and sighted in on the A320s and even that was a stretch.

Well … off to my right … from the Terminal 4 entrance … came a high-pitched female voice yelling excitedly and unintelligibly. I thought nothing of it until it got louder and closer. I turned to look and saw this diminutive West Indian … I think … TSA rushing toward me in a panic with her arms flailing … like I was about to detonate a nuclear or biological device. Was she trying to impress her supervisor. I turned and started toward her slowly … turning my ear in the universal gesture of “EH … WHAT?” She kept on coming like a windmill in a tempest at 30 knots and was quite in a panic. Was she new on the job? Had TSA been briefed on the Fort Dix thing to an ultra-heightened state of alert. I had trouble understanding her thick accent but eventually she gasped out that I couldn’t view any aircraft with binoculars! BINOCULARS?? My photo gear was safely tucked away so all she saw were the binocs. It was OK to just l-o-o-k at the aircraft but not with binoculars … “not at this airport” she proclaimed. I was dumbfounded! Then I got irate … under control but irate. I tried to explain patiently how some aircraft have nindividual ames on their fuselage and I couldn’t read them at that distance … for God’s sake!. It was like talking to a wall. Then I said something like … “Hey! I’m local … I live around here. I'm not a terrorist! You want to see my ID? Though she didn't asked … I took it out anyway and thrust it toward her … “Here … see for yourself!” Well ... she actually took and examined it … finally returned it with thanks. Chastened? Probably not. Well … I was outraged to the point where I just stalked away … which of course was all she probably wanted in the first place.

While having a snack at the Terminal 4 Food Court a few minutes later I noticed security-type uniforms all over the place. I even removed my ball cap in case a description was already out on me. That frantic TSA agent did read my ID and descriptions can be passed along via cell phone in seconds. Was I getting paranoid here? OK … it probably was their lunch break and the passenger/flight level was low. And … I was m-u-c-h more aware of security after what had just happened.

When I boarded the AirTrain ... I saw that shuttle AirTrain service between Terminal 4 and 1-3 was suspended “due to routine maintenance.” OK ... maybe yes ... and maybe it's a periodic "security event" to restrict easy travel between terminals. Who knows. One could take the thru AirTrain to Station C (Federal Circle) and double back to Terminals 1-3 on the main AirTrain going the other way ... which I did. The AirTrains themselves seemed more crowded than usual and each car had security personnel on board … TSA badges and redcoats galore … something I had never seen at any hour in the past. Something was up!

I finally got to Terminal 1 and checked out the minimal viewing sites there. TSA was stationed at each place and in greater than usual numbers in the terminal itself ... which was more crowded than Terminal 4. Apparently TSA knows where aviation spotters like to go. Does TSA get this from monitoring this forum I wonder?

What was going on? Had JFK security been ratcheted up this day due to the Fort Dix episode? Was it something else? Or was my trip scheduling radically off that day? Does anyone know?

Pardon my verbosity. Thanks,

Mike (shamrock838)

Winglets747
05-11-2007, 08:09 PM
T4 is known for giving spotters a particularly hard time. Was the person who stopped you TSA or the independent security company (they usually wear maroon jackets)?

Iberia A340-600
05-11-2007, 08:33 PM
I personally feel that spotting inside the terminals at JFK especially without a boarding pass can be a hit and go.

I have actually only had trouble in Terminal 4 with taking pictures and a part of it could be that security is tighter at the terminal due to the amount of international airlines as well as the amount of international passengers that use the terminal.

In the departure hall in Terminal 4 I have been told not to take pictures of the main lobby but when I have gone down to the level with the duty free and food and gone over to the windows in some areas I have not been spotted by TSA so I took pictures freely.

In the A concourse which I have departed out of twice I have only had one experience when I was told I was not aloud to take photos. I was sitting by my gate and some younger airport employee's were chilling at the gate and mentioned to me that I was not aloud to but whatever it didn't really matter as long as I wasn't caught by the supervisor. However my dad was told he could not take pictures because of his "professional" equipment.

In the B concourse I have only been told once not to take pictures and that was right in front of the security entrance which was a mistake in the first place on my part. However once I walked down the entire concourse I took pictures freely and even passed a bunch of TSA agents on break.

In Terminal 1, Terminal 2, Terminal 6, Terminal 8, and Terminal 9 I have taken pictures freely once past security without any issues.

As I said it really is a hit or miss and it is usually better to spot once you have passed security.

Tom_Turner
05-11-2007, 08:42 PM
Mike -

Most of the hysteria with regard to what *we* do is concentrated on the passenger terminals.

Unfortunate, but nothing new for me to add......

Tom

PhilDernerJr
05-11-2007, 09:53 PM
As said, T4 tends to be strict, though you do get a TSA agent that might layit on a little hard.

Binoculars not being allowed is a new one, though.

One bit of advice that I would give, however, is that it's understandable to look around before pulling out your camera, some people might see your cautiousness as suspicious. Granted, it is a great shame that we, in practicing our legal hobby, have to walk around worried as though we are criminals sometimes.

Eitehr way, my advice is to avoid the terminals and stick to spots on the Spotter Maps.

nwafan20
05-12-2007, 08:09 AM
Wow, seems a bit harsh! I don't know if it is just at JFK or what, but I have actually taken pictures right IN FRONT of a TSA checkpoint ( http://jetphotos.net/viewphoto.php?id=5769230&nseq=16 ) and they didn't say a thing...

Well, I wish you the best of luck with spotting. It might be a good idea to print this out and stick it in your camera bag: http://www.krages.com/phoright.htm

Winglets747
05-12-2007, 08:25 AM
Wow, seems a bit harsh! I don't know if it is just at JFK or what, but I have actually taken pictures right IN FRONT of a TSA checkpoint ( http://jetphotos.net/viewphoto.php?id=5769230&nseq=16 ) and they didn't say a thing...

The general problem at T4 is not the TSA but rather the independent security company. The TSA, in my experience, does not have any problems with photographing planes.


Well, I wish you the best of luck with spotting. It might be a good idea to print this out and stick it in your camera bag: http://www.krages.com/phoright.htm
Unfortunately JFK comes into gray water regarding if it is public or private property. I'm pretty sure that T4 is completely private, and thus those rights are useless.

PhilDernerJr
05-12-2007, 10:35 AM
Wow, seems a bit harsh! I don't know if it is just at JFK or what, but I have actually taken pictures right IN FRONT of a TSA checkpoint ( http://jetphotos.net/viewphoto.php?id=5769230&nseq=16 ) and they didn't say a thing...

Well, I wish you the best of luck with spotting. It might be a good idea to print this out and stick it in your camera bag: http://www.krages.com/phoright.htm

Whether you got away with it or not, NEVER take pictures in front of the checkpoint. That is the only place that it really is illegal.

And as mentioned, that "photo right" thing isn't very valid in all places. Airprots can set rules where those rights do not apply.

nwafan20
05-12-2007, 11:30 AM
Wow, seems a bit harsh! I don't know if it is just at JFK or what, but I have actually taken pictures right IN FRONT of a TSA checkpoint ( http://jetphotos.net/viewphoto.php?id=5769230&nseq=16 ) and they didn't say a thing...

Well, I wish you the best of luck with spotting. It might be a good idea to print this out and stick it in your camera bag: http://www.krages.com/phoright.htm

Whether you got away with it or not, NEVER take pictures in front of the checkpoint. That is the only place that it really is illegal.

And as mentioned, that "photo right" thing isn't very valid in all places. Airprots can set rules where those rights do not apply.

From what I understand, it is "dont take pictures of the checkpoint". It was taken out of a window about 10ft in front of the checkpoint, they really didn't care. If they would have asked, I would have stopped.

stuart schechter
05-12-2007, 03:33 PM
I have gotten some very VERY suspicious looks from the U.S. Army guys in T4 when I had my scanner in my pocket and the whip antenna was sticking out and I had an earbud in my ear. To top it off, I had a camera in my hand. oops.

Matt Molnar
05-12-2007, 06:18 PM
In addition to the Fort Dix arrests, authorities went on a heightened state of alert for an anticipated attack against German and U.S. interests, including flights between the U.S. and Germany.

shamrock838
05-13-2007, 01:26 AM
In addition to the Fort Dix arrests, authorities went on a heightened state of alert for an anticipated attack against German and U.S. interests, including flights between the U.S. and Germany.

A-HA ... I'd overlooked the German-U.S. threat! Of course! That ... and Fort Dix ... explains the heightened security presence at JFK that I blundered into on Wednesday (05/09). I've since noticed an increased presence at LGA as well.

Not knowing this ... how long does it usually take ... on the average ... for things to quite down to so-called "normal levels" after such alerts? How long should "lie low" or at least avoid airport facilities?

Thanks,

Mike (shamrock838)

PhilDernerJr
05-13-2007, 08:00 AM
When it comes to taking photographs in airline terminals....I'd stop that altogether and stick to outside public areas instead. You will always get hassled in there for sure, regardless of threat levels.

T-Bird76
05-13-2007, 08:19 AM
There's no reason you can't take pictures inside a terminal. If they ask you to stop with a valid reason then you stop but otherwise terminals that are operated by the local township, city, or state are public property.

Winglets747
05-13-2007, 08:20 AM
I have gotten some very VERY suspicious looks from the U.S. Army guys in T4 when I had my scanner in my pocket and the whip antenna was sticking out and I had an earbud in my ear. To top it off, I had a camera in my hand. oops.

They were probably wondering why no one told them the Secret Service was patrolling JFK. :roll:

stuart schechter
05-13-2007, 09:15 AM
I have gotten some very VERY suspicious looks from the U.S. Army guys in T4 when I had my scanner in my pocket and the whip antenna was sticking out and I had an earbud in my ear. To top it off, I had a camera in my hand. oops.

They were probably wondering why no one told them the Secret Service was patrolling JFK. :roll:

Maybe I should have worn a shirt written in Arabic. That would throw them off.