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Glider pilot almost shot down

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I don't think that guy was at much risk of really being shot down, though it does seem the local gendarmes did have their panties in a wad over this one.  It used to be that Barney only had one bullet and had to carry it in his pocket, but I suspect that most police forces are a little more capable these days, even in Mayberry.  One hopes they are also a little more sensible.  I think some of the other authorities mentioned may have been a little harsh too, but those guys are on a good day.  I think they have their sense of humor surgically removed when they are hired.  The fact that the pilot guy seemed to have a non-US accent probably added to their level of suspicion, though I'm sure he was perfectly legitimate.


Having spent 28+ years working in a commercial nuclear plant, I can tell you for a fact that overflights and even the occasional buzz job are not uncommon.  I don't recall any sailplanes, but in one case, an errant RC aircraft being flown from a model airplane airpark a few miles from the plant got out of radio range of the owner and continued on its merry way in a straight line until it encountered the high-bay part of our turbine building.  It fell in pieces on one of the lower level roofs and did cycle the security force a bit for a while, but it really wasn't a big deal.  


If you've seen photos of the Kelly-green replica WWII Japanese torpedo bomber that's on the air show circuit these days, the one with a big honking torpedo hanging beneath it, he and some similarly warlike companions flew past our office building windows (right on the Lake Michigan shoreline) at pretty short range and about level with the top floor windows one day.  It's only a 2-story building, so it's safe to say he was pretty low.  


All kinds of GA aircraft overflew us, but usually at 1,000' AGL or more.  The Lake Michigan shoreline is pretty much a thoroughfare for GA aircraft flying VFR and a big ol' power plant with a couple of containment buildings is mighty prominent landmark for pilotage-type navigation.  I often flew north out of our local airport to visit my wife's parents.  Our plant was south but there was another nuclear plant about 30 miles north of the airport, also right on the lake shore, and I never went out of my way to avoid overflying them.  I used a coal-fired plant, even further up the lakeshore, as a reporting point when contacting Muskegon approach.  


The stories about how heavily built nuclear plants are is both right and wrong.  The containments are pretty much proof against anything non-military that can fly but there are other things clustered nearby that are important too.  No, I'm not going to say what they are.  It's not correct to say nuke plants can't be harmed by airborne terrorism or accidents, but it is a safe bet that barring something that strains credibility, e.g. military aircraft with ordnance, the nasty stuff will remain inside the containment building(s), pretty much per design.  The Isrealis did punch a big hole in the containment at Osirik (Iraq) many years ago, but used some big, smart bombs, programmed to hit in exactly the same spot on the containment building.  One wasn't enough and they knew that going in.  That was between the era of the Tallboys and the current bunker busters and the MOAB, so they used what they had in their inventory and got the job done.


In recent years, the beach in front of our plant, once open for free access to the public, has been closed off.  On the beach you could get within about a hundred feet of some of the plant buildings, though they were the non-critical ones and there was a pretty high fence in between along with some means of surveillance.


Also, a line of buoys has been installed beyond and around the plant intake and discharge structures on the lake bottom, requiring boats, mainly fishermen, to remain clear.  That was not always the case.  It's enforced by the Coast Guard and they're pretty serious about it.


Almost everything about at a commercial nuclear plant is pretty much in the public domain if someone wants to dig deep enough, but there's one exception.  Anything related to security, including design, hardware, systems, staffing, training, armament, policy and procedures, etc. is treated very much the same way the military treats classified information.



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This incident is interesting if perhaps laughable in retrospect. Given what John has said and the fact that there was no such no fly zone marked on the charts I think that any attempt to prosecute this pilot would be on very shaky ground indeed. I hope the Police Department involved paid him compensation for the time he spent under arrest, and for the trauma that it no doubt caused him. 


It sounds like the charges dropped if he didn't take the PD to court was just great for the police. I suspect that the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) in the UK would have chucked this one  back at the police with an "are you having a laugh?" and it would have gone no further.


As for shooting it down? What with, a side arm? I suspect that any call on the USAF would have been laughed at or if a fast jet was sent then the PD would have been sent a massive bill for the interception cost and a similar "are you having a laugh?" message.


This must have caused a few red faces in the police at the very least.

Edited by J G
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