formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

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March 2, 2010 Austin plane crash

The Liberty Gazette
March 2, 2010

The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street Ely

This week, sadly, we are writing about an isolated incident in Austin in which a troubled individual intent on revenge and suicide flew his Piper Cherokee into an office building. We offer our condolences to those traumatized and grieving. Airplane crashes tend to be sensationalized so this tragic act was intended to receive lots of attention. Naturally, this brings up the subject of security again. What would Joe Stack have done if he didn’t have an airplane or know how to fly? Would he have performed this act using some other type of weapon, as others have in the past? I don’t know, but I have my suspicions.

Pilots and aviation in general are already regulated more than most firearms owners. We are required to have medical examinations every six months to three years, depending on what we’re flying. Before a person can start training in an airplane they must prove U. S. citizenship, and if they are from another country they must submit to a TSA background check at least 45 days before beginning training and get final approval before they can even set foot in an aircraft or simulator cockpit. Flight instructors, flight schools and most employees of flight schools and fixed base operations must participate in the TSA’s security awareness program. In order to land at certain airports, and even fly over “protected” areas such as Washington D.C., aircraft operators must have an extensive security program in place. In some cases they’re even required to have an armed law enforcement officer on board–even after everyone has passed the vetting process. And this is for privately owned aircraft. The TSA regularly reviews the FAA’s database of current pilots and compares them to people on their “no-fly list.”

Linda: Recently the Office of the Inspector General of Homeland Security issued a final report, stating that “The current status of general aviation operations does not present any serious homeland security vulnerability.” That assessment is the result of many measures put in place by the general aviation community itself, including Airport Watch programs with a free hotline directly to the TSA to report suspicious activities, background checks, tamper proof licenses, monitoring of aircraft sales and purchases. I’m all for safety, but am real tired of the federales restricting personal freedom, freedom of the people to move about the country. We in the general aviation community do watch, but if someone is intent on doing something sensational and masks those intentions, how can we protect against it? There is sin and evil in this world, and there is only One answer to that.

General aviation serves America in places airlines do not. The airlines serve about 600 airports in this country. General aviation airplanes have access to over 4,700 public use airports and another 14,000 private landing facilities.

Mike: Joe Stack used his own airplane, total weight about 2,000 lbs. The fuel tanks hold 38 gallons of fuel–about what my pickup truck holds in its gas tank–and the maximum speed is about 150 mph. If he wanted to inflict large scale damage, he picked a weak vehicle. Jay Carpenter, Secretary of the Texas Aviation Association, said, "It's impossible to guard every person who rents a plane or rents a truck, or wants to do something ludicrous. We're as shocked about it as anyone." For all the good GA does for America, this one hurts.

Mike and Linda can be reached at

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