Private Air Show Draws Fire

A month or so after the terrorist attack on 9-11 and not long after GA aircraft were allowed back into the skies Mark Winton was flying his Beech T34 Mentor when he looked down and noticed that football practice was going on at his son’s school and he knew his son was amongst the players practicing. He turned on the smoker as a way of saying “hi” to his son.

Next door to the high school was an elementary school with their after school program kids out playing. The caretakers for the children saw the smoke and assumed the worse — a chemical attack was taking place. Phone calls to 911 were placed and the police, FBI and FAA started investigating.

Mark had done nothing wrong, was in complete compliance of all FAA regulations and had not broken any local, state of federal laws but boy has this caused him some embarrassment. We do things that are perfectly innocent and perfectly legal that come back to haunt us later.

Fast forward to the present. Maj. Whitney Sieben of the Oregon Air National Guard wanted to show off his skills as a pilot to his grandmother so he orchestrated a private air show for her and some othe family members. He notified the local air traffic control facility and Quad City International Airport controllers were advised of the impending air show however, he didn’t stop to think that no airshows are completely private when held in close proximity to a town of 6,400 people.

The result was a swarm of phone calls to the local law enforcement. People were concerned, said Geneseo Police Chief Tom Piotrowski.