Dear President Obama,
I hear you’re coming to Martha’s Vineyard from August 23 to August 30, and to protect you, Katama Airfield will be closed. Katama Airfield is a small grass airfield that only serves small propeller planes engaged in general aviation. There are several pilots who make their living at Katama giving rides and lessons including two vintage World War II biplanes and a self-propelled glider. I’ve known the pilots at Katama for four years and they would do absolutely nothing to hurt you. As for Captain Mike, he makes his money giving biplane rides and he would obviously lose money if Katama were closed. I am writing because I am 16 and am learning to fly out of Katama. I fly every summer for two weeks and have planned this a year in advance. This is the only two-week period and the only place I can fly because I have a special friend who flies out of Katama and is willing to teach me. So, I am asking you, with all due respect, to keep Katama open while you are here. You can have your fun while we pilots have ours.
I recently sent the following to the White House:
I am a strong and continuing supporter. I’m also the pilot of a four-seat Cessna, who loves to fly his family to the little Edgartown airport and walk to South Beach. Next week will be the last week we can do that before my schoolteacher wife and my son start fall classes. I know many other pilots who are so glad to avoid the ferry and fly to their homes or rentals out on the Vineyard, but the TFR over the entire Vineyard next week will make that impossible. I don’t believe that these TFRs make your family any more secure and they enrage anyone whose one week of the Vineyard happens to coincide with yours.
The Secret Service has a difficult job, and we pray for their success in these crazy days, but small planes like mine have never been shown to be any threat to any VIP. Homeland Security recently disputed the idea that small planes are a security threat, yet every time you or Vice President Biden travel, general aviation is completely banned in a 30-mile circle.
You could gain such favor among freedom-loving Americans by ending this paranoid exercise that penalizes innocent Americans whenever you travel. President Clinton vacationed on the Vineyard during both terms and there’s no evidence he was ever endangered by a small plane.
Please consider this.
G. Leslie Sweetnam
Reader Comments from the Web
Wholly different circumstances in Crawford, Tex. In Crawford, you don’t have to take a 45-minute ferry and a half hour cab ride simply to get to the nearest airport. Inasmuch as a lot of us commute from the Vineyard in our aircraft, this may turn out to be a serious hardship unless waivers are granted to local pilots in a rational manner. I am hopeful.
Only the very wealthy commute to the Island in their private planes. Therefore, the TFR is not going to inconvenience the average tourist. In this post 9/11 era, everything should be done to keep our President safe. Let the owners of private planes drive and take the ferry during the last week in August and see how the other half lives.
Over the last week or so I’ve spent hours and hours trying to get valid information about the requirements of the TFR, talking with TSA people in Washington, gathering personal data from passengers, and filling out complex forms online.
A waiver is required for each flight in or out of MVY. All flights require that the aircraft, pilot, passengers, and baggage go through security screening. Waivers must be applied for at least 72 hours (three days) in advance. Returning to MVY requires stopping at a “gateway” airport for security screening.
During the last week I had charter flight requests for the last week in August totaling about $7,000.
The issue is not Obama. The issue is the President and the associated security bubble that surrounds his movement. There are those who perceive real threats, and those who believe it’s all overkill and hype promulgated by a previous administration.
The questions are: What level of protection is adequate? And how can that be intelligently managed?
The limitations we face are imposed not by politicians but by bureaucrats. As those bureaucracies gain power and mystique I question the ability of our elected representatives (congress and the president) to actually control those bureaucracies (which Louis Brownlow referred to as the faceless, headless, fourth branch of government).
With each passing day we see added restrictions and complexity which serve well to ensure the importance and longevity of well paid government employees. Does this represent real value to private sector citizens and taxpayers? I think not.
On an associated note, MVY airport is about to submit to an FAA project expending some $7 million to move the main runway to gain nothing more than technical compliance with a safety issue. It’s a huge expense for a tiny improvement. At the same time the aircraft parking area pavement is severely cracked and crumbling. I know of no plans to repair it. This is a fine example of bureaucracy and the associated straightjacket of regulation run amok . . . and we are paying for it in more ways than just money.
Ted Stanley, Direct Flight Inc.
How do you commute to work if the weather is bad and you can’t fly?
It’s ridiculous to think that only “the very wealthy” commute to the Island via air. My family is far from wealthy, but we visit the Island every August in our small airplane. Sadly, not this year.
New Haven, Conn.