“We’re opposed to drugs and drug runners and illegal uses of aircraft, but we do feel very strongly that when you do a police action like your plane comes to a stop on a runway and its surrounded by eight SUVs, police get out, guns drawn, body armor, dogs, that you need to have a reasonable suspicion that illegal activity has occurred or is about to occur,” said Ken Mead, general counsel for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.
It can also be a financial hardship. Professional pilot Dean Holiday lost about $1,600 a month in income when he stopped flying one of his best clients after more than a half-dozen officers, guns pulled, stopped them in Marana, Ariz. He didn’t want to repeat the experience, thinking his client was likely involved in shady dealings even though nothing was found on the plane.
Arturo Caballero has been stopped by agents twice after flying with his wife, son and pet chihuahua. On one family trip home to Bay City, Texas, Caballero was separated from his wife and son, who at the time was a student at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., for questioning while agents searched the plane.