FlightAware Discussions

Watching landings - a NO GO at ORD

I had to meet with a client today right in the Chicago loop. Day started okay, sun out, spring(ish) - nice. Had to meet my client at 2pm and headed out quite a bit early (I am on average 90 minutes from the city proper). So, on to I90 east. Construction…what ever.

I get near the Des Planes Oasis (a McDonalds and fuel stop that is over the toll way). You get a perfect view of ORD and what is coming in and going out. I get off of the highway, get on my mobile hot spot and park in a lot near the airport and watch a number of smaller domestics coming in (Live ATC in the back round).

So, next thing I know a cop in an all white car pulls up, asks what I am doing. I tell him “watching planes”, show him the computer, Flight Aware and LiveATC. He goes to his car, talks on the radio for a good five minutes. Another car pulls in. Another cop. He gets out of his car, they talk and ask if they can search my car. With nothing to hide at all, and no reason to hide anything I reply “Um, no you can not search my car”. In the time cop one was on the radio I locked my PC and put a power on password as well as confirming my drive is encrypted (not that they cant get past that in 60 seconds). I also removed the battery from my cell phone and put it under my car seat in a semi-secret OEM compartment.

Cop 2 tells me that “TSA may come over and search you car” - “they dont need a warrant”. I reply, “Okay, I guess there goes the fourth amendment”. I had locked my car with the windows up - they went round and round and round looking into the windows. Cop 1 comes back and tells me “we ran you all the way through” (I am not sure what that means). Said that they had all of my information and if I “knew what was good for me” I would “stop watching aircraft near the airport”. He hands me back my DL, my insurance, my SS card (he saw it in my wallet and asked for that too). He then says “we keep track of everyone, and your not allowing us to search your car does not sit well”.

I pull out - cop 2 follows me out of the industrial park I had pulled into (no signs saying not to park there, I was REALLY looking on my way out). No signs - and not only that, on week days I am sure that this same lot is full of cars with people just going to work.

ordairportwatch.org/ If you pay for a background check and join this group you could’ve sat there all day.

Just cops harrassing citizens. If you parked legally then they have no authority to make you move. That crap about searching your car without cause is just that - crap (pronounce crap as bovine excrement)

More BS. “like a neighborhood watch”? BS - more like we got another way to make citizens pay the government for doing legal things.

Why would I need a background check to watch a plane land or take off? I dont get it. Seems to me like another cash grab by the cops. Say, for instance I did not pass the background check…then what? In Illinois for instance they will deny a FOID card for a litany of reasons - a friend can not get a FOID cause he got into a fight with his dad (he was 17…twenty years ago). So, what is the criteria that these cops would say go or no go?

Sitting in a car should not cross the precipice of police queries. The police had no reason what so ever to “run me”…some dude in a fancy German car in a nice clothing watching planes? Really? From there, asking to search my car? Looking for what? A bazooka in the trunk?

I did find out that “running all the way through” means that they checked me for local, state and any warrant in the country. That there is some tax dollars well spent.

So, now they have (as they told me) taken my name, my social, my car information and put me “on the list”.

I do not own guns, I have never had a desire to own one. However, with the actions that the police take - more and more I am thinking that we as a public need to arm ourselves…after all, the second ammd. was not intended to protect ourselves from burglars, it was intended to allow us to fight a tyrannical government.


We also never imagined people could fly airplanes into skyscrapers and kill thousands…

I agree, but that’s what those spotters up there submitted to.

I need to look more into that. What lead to that. What proof a “spotter” needs - as in some sorta “A+ Verified OK guy with no bazooka in the trunk we background checked this guy” license?

Just as with other crime, if a person wants to shoot someone…they buy a gun, license or not. If someone wanted to take down an aircraft on the landing path of any given airport…um, I get the feeling they are not going to apply for a license.

Had I been in the car reading National Lampoons…would the cop had left me alone as I was not watching planes? Maybe just dont crook my neck so high as to thrown them off, and make them think I am looking at a rare variety of disposed cigarette butt?

We knew that was a potential since the dawn of flight. More than one craft had incidents with buildings prior, just not fully fueled 767’s. I would have to think that using air craft as weapons (as a whole) dates back at least to WWII Japan…

We did? I didn’t. Guess I had my head in the sand.

Heck, even after the Hindenburg…people in NJ (Oddly, staff from Chicago’s WLS radio) were talking about how good it was that the incident was not near a more heavily populated area. Even King Kong knew that sky scrapers were excellent points of contention :wink:

That being said - Govt intrusion into a private citizens activities are way way out of line.

You should look into it! I think the one time background check was $10 last I saw, not too bad of a deal as they get tours of the ramp from time to time. As far as what lead to that I don’t know, I’ve read something similar (badges) was suggested by other persons down here years ago but it never was started. Having been detained and threatened with arrest, my best suggestion would be learn all real laws in your area and how they relate to your hobby and rights!

Some nice videos from one of the members https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=(http://www.youtube.com/user/OHAREAVIATION)


Tad bit of a difference between a Piper Dakota and 757 or 767 but I understand your point.

It’s not so much a background check as it is yet another way for the government to extort money from law abiding citizens. They’ll do a background check at a cost that is probably 10% of what they charge citizens.

  1. In a free republic, that which is not specifically prohibited is permitted.
  2. In a totalitarian state, that which is not specifically permitted is prohibited.
  3. In anarchy, that which is prohibited is permitted.
  4. At a previous job, that which was permitted was prohibited.

the real laws you referenced sound like #4, at least around ORD.

So, if someone had a DUI 19 year ago…do they get denied? If someone went to jail for stealing a car…do they get denied? What would the criteria of a background check be for a denial? For instance, in the State of Illinois - they do more of a “Background Check” on someone who gets a license to cut hair or do a woman’s nails than they do for someone to be a “Doctor” of Chiropractic (not at all a real medical doctor).

Is it the same Criteria as a FOID card? The same as a day care worker?

It simply makes no sense why it would be that if someone wants to watch an object in the sky, over public land do what it does. If a person wants to cross the fence, certainly, I agree - we need to know more. But, if you can not stand on the outside of the fence and watch…why not put the fence another 90 feet out…or a mile…or…

(No, I have never gotten a DUI or stolen a car)


If you are interested in learning more, you can email Officer Joel Vargas at jvargas@bensenville.il.us or call 630-350-3455.

The Bensenville’s Airport Watch welcomes like minded aviation enthusiasts to its membership. This member’s only club requires among other things a criminal background check, so it is not open just for anyone. The information is shared with other surrounding municipalities and airport security corporations including Federal interests.

I dont want to join some big brother club or be part of anything bigger. I just want to watch airplanes.

And to watch airplanes there, you need to follow their rules. Perhaps you should find someplace else to watch? There’s quite a few.