Officer Mike Pelletier
Originally published March 1996
On Sunday, 25 February 1996, this Project Police officer, along with officers Chuck Firth and George Gennuso, mounted a daring daylight assault on Flabob airport in Riverside, CA. Mission objectives were to collect intel on the world renowned Chapter 1 Fly-in and Open House, and rendezvous with Bob Mackey (Executive Director, EAA Chapters) and other Southern California EAA chapter officers for a freewheeling discussion of chapter officer issues and concerns.
Officers Gennuso, Firth, and I departed the staging area (the Park and Ride in Palmdale) at 0900. Officer Firth had managed to procure a PPTAV (Project Police tactical assault vehicle), cleverly disg used as his vife's mini van.
The weather, which had started out as rain, quickly turned to snow as we traveled Highway 138. On the way we brainstormed various programs we'd like to see at chapter meetings. George and Chuck, who are restoring a Stinson 108-3, offered to host a meeting out at the hanger they're in at Fox Field-they say there are all sorts of aviation treasures to discover in their hanger.
We arrived at Flabob around 1030, with the rain continuing to fall and the temperature hovering around 50 degrees. It was then we realized we had failed to bring any rain gear. Chuck thought he had an umbrella somewhere in the assault vehicle, but a brief search failed to produce it. It's just as well--although eminently practical, I thought it would be undignified for a Project Police officer to be seen carrying an umbrella. Better that Chuck should get soaked and chilled and risk pneumonia like George and me.
The first thing we noticed was there were only a handful of aircraft parked in the fly-in area. We quickly came to the obvious, logical conclusion--there had been an intel leak and Chapter 1 had been tipped off the Project Police were planning a raid. Like the Iraqi aircraft fleeing before the coalition onslaught, the fly-in attendees had dispersed, lest they be bombarded by the probing questions of the Project Police. The facts that 1) this was a two day fly-in, 2) the weather was nice the day before and the fly-in was well attended on Saturday (according to fellow officer Ron Applegate, whom I saw at Albertson's Saturday night), and 3) the rain coming down had been forecast well in advance were irrelevant.
After fording a small river of mud, we did manage to get up close to a beautiful red Stinson 108 similar to George and Chuck's. Several covert photos were taken for inspiration. Since there were few fly-in aircraft to see, we walked the Flabob ramp, poking our noses into hangers and checking out the aircraft based at the field. Chuck made the observation that just about every hanger was built differently; some were all metal with sliding or roll up doors, while others were wood framed and open. All sorts of treasures could be seen within. These are the kinds of things that make airports so fascinating!
At 1130 we managed to rendezvous with a couple of other members; Norm Lowell, Ozzie Levi, and Tony Ginn showed up. At 1300 we sat down for a meeting with other chapter officers and Bob Mackey. Bob, who is very outgoing and enthusiastic, led the meeting. He talked about chapter officer leadership development, and how chapters could better meet the needs of their members, offering up suggestions without saying his way was the only way to do things. He encouraged each of us to talk about things our chapters were doing (he did seem to mention Chapter 1000's accomplishments quite a bit). What most impressed me was how he kept asking what EAA HQ could do for the chapters--you can rest assured that the EAA, although a large, international organization, is still focused on its members.
After covering a variety of topics and sharing a lot of ideas, the meeting with Bob came to an end. It was just as well, because by this time my feet were beginning to freeze. The meeting was held in a tent, and I made the mistake of letting my feet get wet while slogging through the rain. Chuck, George, and I piled into the van, er, the assault vehicle, cranked up the heat and drove home, another successful Project Police raid completed.
Contents of The Leading Edge and these web pages are the viewpoints of the authors. No claim is made and no liability is assumed, expressed or implied as to the technical accuracy or safety of the material presented. The viewpoints expressed are not necessarily those of Chapter 1000 or the Experimental Aircraft Association.
Revised -- 22 February 1997