Kings’ arrest prompts legislator to act

 - October 28, 2010, 7:53 AM

A California congressman has picked up the cudgel in the mistaken detention at gunpoint of John and Martha King of King Schools on August 28, and the incident prompted him to join the House GA Caucus.

Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.), whose district includes the Kings’ San Diego facilities, met the couple on October 14 and discussed their being ordered at gunpoint to exit their Cessna 172 after shutdown (see AIN, October 2010, page 12), being surrounded by local police, handcuffed and placed in separate patrol cars.

“We talked about the advantages of general aviation to society…and why he should support it,” said John King after the visit. Their detention at Santa Barbara Airport resulted from confusion over the N-number of a stolen aircraft being reassigned to the Cessna 172S they were flying and raised serious questions about the coordination of information among law enforcement and other concerns.

The Kings and AOPA have been reaching out to law enforcement, federal agencies and Congress. Bilbray has a meeting with FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt scheduled on December 1 to discuss the issue. Other pilots have reported similar incidents that might have been prevented if N-numbers of stolen aircraft were not reissued, or if recovered aircraft were deleted from the stolen aircraft list.

But the shortfall that left two respected members of the GA community handcuffed didn’t end with the FAA’s registration policy. The El Paso Intelligence Center (Epic), which reported the suspected stolen aircraft to the Santa Barbara Police Department, acted on information it could have confirmed was invalid.

AOPA president Craig Fuller called on the Drug Enforcement Agency, of which Epic is a part, to investigate the incident to ­prevent others from being at risk because of outdated information. The association also has contacted federal agencies about improving procedures.