|Posted by Aaron Harrington on September 14, 2011 at 9:15 PM||comments (0)|
Today was my parent's 25th wedding anniversary. They have been very supportive of my interest in airplanes and my flying hobbies since the beginning. When they asked if I would take them flying as their anniversary gift to each other, I jumped at the chance. I had tons of really cool ideas from going out to lunch by flying to Lancaster or Cambridge, flying to the beach, going to the Massey Aerodrome Museum, I was excited. I had pretty much settled on going to Massey but it turned out that last weeks rain has left just about every grass runway on the east coast....mushy. So, I decided to do an aerial tour of Harford County, my parent's home for the past 13+ years. Weather, NOTAMS, W&B, fueled, and ready to go we embarked. We first flew to Havre de Grace and Perryville, turned north and flew IFR (I fly rivers) along the Susquehanna up past Conowingo Dam and Peach Bottom. We then turned towards Delta, PA and over to North Harford High School, where I went to school. Then we set out in search of my parent's house. Tucked away in dense forrest it took a while to see and we did some 'turns around a point' a couple of times to try and get a good picture. Then we set out towards Fallston airport and once it was in sight, turned back towards Harford County Airport. We really enjoyed ourselves, but the person who probably had the most fun was my dad. It was really funny because my mom kept saying "you have never been in a small airplane before. It is totally different." but my dad said "I fly in the Bach once a week." Lets just say... he was wrong. I rarely see my dad the way he was today but he looked like a kid in a candy store. All of a sudden it was "Aaron, could we fly to New York?! Could we fly to the beach?! Could we fly here?! Could we fly there?!" hahaha. Maybe this is the start of a new hobby?! Probably not. But I can't wait to go flying with the fam again. Maybe next time we'll all go to the beach.
|Posted by Aaron Harrington on April 15, 2011 at 9:17 PM||comments (2)|
One of my goals ever since I started attending University of Maryland back in 2005 was to some day fly to College Park Airport. CP Airport has a magic too it that pulls me for some reason. One of my favorite activities is to ride my bike to the airport and sit at the picnic tables until.... well.... until I get cold, bored, or see an airplane land or take off. College Park airport is very historic as it is the oldest continually operating airport in the world. Unfortunately after 9/11, the airport has effectively been off limits to pilots due to very stringent TSA requirements that prevent people from flying withing a 13 mile radius of Reagan National Airport. The TSA states that it is in the interest of National Security but yet I could just as easily rent a U-Haul and fill it with an explosive of my choice and drive right into the heart of downtown DC but the debate of their rationalle is not the focus of this article.
In any case, I have my pilots license now and now more than ever, I want to fly to College Park. Partly to say that I did, partly to see UMD from the air, and partly to get a little of my freedom back and show the TSA how important it is to me to have access to such a historic airport. So, I recently set out to obtain my "super double top secret PIN number."
Being as busy as I am with school and stuff, I knew that the chances of me completing this entire process in one day was slim to none. The Baltimore FAA Flight Standards Dicrict Office (FSDO) is the easiest for me to get to since it is litterally right next door to BWI and that is where I do most of my flying so I just stoped by one day and got that done. I had to make an appointment and I was expecting to spend at least an hour there getting interviewed and background checked. Boy was I wrong. The gentleman aske for my pilot's license, my driver's license, my medical certificate, and my SFRA Training Certificate. He went away back to his office for about 3-5 minutes and said "Ok have a nice day"..........what the hell? He told me that the purpose of me going to the FSDO office is to verify that I was in fact a pilot...... well duh. But in any case, I didn't argue but rather went on my merry way, one step closer to College Park.
Unfortunately I was unable to make it down to Reagan National Airport within the month as I had all sorts of things come up and the stupid TSA office is only open from 10am-3pm Monday through Friday. Figures. It just so happened that I had a dinner meeting to go to near by the airport about a month later so I stopped by the airport before going over to my meeting. I wasn't expecting the resultant encountered traffic and even when I got to the airport, the Police Officer that I asked "Where is the main TSA fingerprinting office?" acted like I was stupid and told me "Look here, you are in an airport, there are 100 TSA offices here, I have no idea which one you want to go to" He wasn't friendly or helpful, but the firefighter I ran into only 100 yards further down the terminal actually walked me to the office. What a nice guy. Well, the fingerprinting process was a bore and I had to fill out some paperwork to basically proove that I was who I said I was and that was it. I should point out that I have been fingerprinted at LEAST a dozen times within the past four years for my job and scholarships and other background checks so it makes me curious as to why they can't just type in my name and pull them up. My fingerprints haven't changed that much.
The third and final step. Going to College Park to turn in my one page document with a TSA signature and my signature. The easiest step. And most enjoyable. And least painfull. I stopped by around 6:30pm on a Friday, turned in my paperwork and the young man (a friend of a friend) who processed it was super nice and explained everything that I needed to know in order to file my flight plan in and out of the airport once I did get my PIN number. Now, I just have to wait for the PIN to come in and first chance I get, I am off to College Park! I can't wait!
I am super happy but also very sad at the same time that this beurocratic mess that I had to go through was so stupidly simple. The FAA didn't need me to go to Baltimore to be background checked, I have been background checked tons of times for job related things. The TSA didn't need me to go to THEIR fingerprinting office, there is a police station right down the street from my house (not to mention my fingerprints are already in the national database) But Lawyers and whoever are not smart enough to think for themselves and say "Gee, this process sure is silly, why can't we make it easier?" I think the answer is that the TSA doesn't really want pilots flying to the DC-3 airports but they know they cant officially shut those airports down because too many people would make a HUGE fuss over it. So the only thing they can do is make is really inconvenient for people to do so. But I say to hell with'em all! I want to fly where I want when I want. I want to be set free and see the world in my little rented 'bug smasher' Cessna 150. Or "that dinky thing" as my fellow grad student Pauline calls it. I really like the idea of flying a minimalistic airplane into the country's most busy and complicated airspace. It makes me feel like I have accomplished something great!