Antique planes give F-16s a slow run for their government money

October 11, 2007|By TIM ROWLAND

Don't you just hate it when someone invades your personal space? Especially your personal air space.

It doesn't matter if it's the pushy bag lady in the checkout aisle at Food Lion or the president of the United States - which in this case it was.

Over the weekend, President Bush was attending a memorial event for fallen firefighters in Emmitsburg, Md., which, for some reason, inspired the government to enforce a no-fly zone that bumped up against the Hagerstown airport.

As fate would have it - and fate always does, where Hagerstown is concerned - the airport, at the exact same time, was hosting an antique plane fly-in.


I could stop right here and you would probably be able to imagine what happened next.

It was like the time a couple of decades back when the hapless turkey hunter discharged his weapon on Camp David property during a presidential visit - and suddenly found himself surrounded by about 30 M-16 wielding commandos.

Predictably, the Hagers-town Fly-In turned into a similar situation. Pilots participating in the event might have had warning had the antique-plane event not featured, well, antique planes. Expecting an antique plane to have a radio would be like expecting a Stutz Bearcat to be equipped with a GPS navigating system.

According to the Washington "At Least We're Not Writing About How Backwardly Racist Hagerstown Is Today" Post, four of these puttering planes were escorted from the area - and this is the delicious part - by F-16 fighter jets.

"Meanwhile, at the fly-in, some people were wondering where all the planes were. Suddenly there was a roar outside. Everyone was staring at the sky, where a little propeller plane was buzzing along, with an engine that sounds about like a Volkswagen, and a sleek fighter jet was flying circles around it," wrote the Post's Susan Kinzie.

Not that I'm suggesting that this homeland security stuff has gone too far, but what, did the government think the Red Baron had risen from the dead and was flying for al-Qaida?

This might have been the greatest challenge an F-16 ace will ever encounter - how can you fly a fighter jet slow enough to escort a Fokker off the field? They probably would have had better results if they had gotten out and walked.

Of course the way our commuter service has been going recently, you don't know if this was actually an antique airplane or the 10:10 a.m. to Pittsburgh.

And isn't this "restricted air space" a problem for our grand plans to extend the runway and become a major airline hub? How do you tell passengers that their flight to Phoenix has been delayed because the president is taking a nap at Camp David?

Remember, the president does like his time off. Not that I blame him - who would want to spend 365 days a year with Cheney? But, and call me picky if you must, it seems to me that one of the key elements of any airport is that you have to be able to land there.

Which the antiquers couldn't do. However, that's not the real shame. The real shame is that we didn't know this was going to happen in advance.

The fly-in was sponsored by the Experimental Aircraft Association and the Hagerstown Aviation Museum. (By the way, has anyone noticed that while everyone else in Hagerstown just talks about establishing a museum, the flyboys are actually doing it?)

I don't know how many people the antique fly-in attracted, but imagine the crowds if you could have advertised, "See Antique Aircraft Rousted From The Skies By Jet Fighters."

I'm thinking that even people who had a full weekend of refugee bashing planned would have taken time to come out for that.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or via e-mail at You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on

The Herald-Mail Articles