Wednesday, June 3, 2009

ATF screws over vintage airplane collector: Premonitions of Absolved?

Claude Hendrickson III says he wants to fly the Douglas AD-4N Skyraider in air shows and eventually donate it to the Southern Museum of Flight.

Well, I went out to buy a Birmingham News today and what do I find on the front cover?

The Feds have seized a vintage airplane because the ATF has a paperwork issue. Another John McClain moment.

Gun owners to aircraft collectors: "Welcome to the party, pal!"

You know, one of the themes in Absolved is that there are no obsolete weapons, only obsolete tactics. Has the ATF internalized that fear already? Are they having premonitions of Absolved? Do they see Charlie Quintard in their sleep?

Or is it just the dimwitted ATF chickenshit paperwork/rule confusion default position?

Yeah, probably that. At least until the book comes out. ;-)


Collector puzzled over seizure of his vintage war plane by customs agents

Skyraider believed to be 1 of 4 left in U.S.

by Anita Debro -- Birmingham News
June 03, 2009

A vintage airplane collector said Tuesday that government agents have impounded his rare 1952 military aircraft he imported from France last fall and are threatening to destroy the plane because of a missed step in bringing it into the country.

Claude Hendrickson III said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents seized his Douglas AD-4N Skyraider about six weeks ago at the Bessemer Municipal Airport hangar he leases.

"(ICE) basically said we smuggled the plane into the country. My question is how do you smuggle this into the country," Hendrickson asked pointing to the single-engine aircraft that was commonly used as an attack bomber during the Vietnam War.

Hendrickson's Skyraider is believed to be one of only four of its kind that remain in the U.S.

The airplane, which Hendrickson bought for $100,000 last May, since its seizure has been moved to another hangar at the Bessemer Airport.

Hendrickson said he is not allowed to fly the plane or perform any work on it until ICE agents release it.

ICE spokesman Temple Black on Tuesday declined comment on the case and forwarded questions to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Birmingham.

Officials in the U.S. Attorney's Office declined specifics on the matter, but said "ICE continues to investigate the case."

Hendrickson said he was not trying to bring the plane into the country illegally. He said he believed he followed all steps to import the plane.

The 48-year-old businessman hired attorneys Joe Lassiter and Anthony Johnson.

Hendrickson said his attorneys on Tuesday met with lawyers in the U.S. Attorneys in Birmingham regarding the plane.

Hendrickson said he has been advised that ICE had 60 days to file any criminal charges against him. He said the plane has already been impounded for about 45 days.


Hendrickson, who lives in Shelby County, said he was in Texas on business when federal agents seized the plane at the Bessemer Airport in May.

He flew into the airport as soon as he heard about the seizure and briefly met with ICE agents.

Hendrickson said ICE agents told him then that he had failed to fill out a form required by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives when he imported the plane into the states from France.

Hendrickson said he was unaware he had to register the plane with ATF since he removed the aircraft's artillery while it was still in France.

Hendrickson did register the plane with the FAA.

The FAA issued a certificate of registration on the airplane in September 2008, according to the agency's Web site. The registered owner of the aircraft, according to the FAA, is Dixie Equipment LLC, the business Hendrickson owns.


Hendrickson's father, Claude F. Hendrickson Jr., is a retired captain in the Navy. The elder Hendrickson flew planes like a Skyraider during his service.

It was his father's service as a Naval pilot that sparked the younger Hendrickson's fascination with airplanes. The younger Hendrickson owns several vintage military aircraft that he houses in Bessemer including the exact SNJ-4 warbird his father flew during his time in the military.

He and his father made the trip to France last year for the Skyraider. After inspecting the aircraft, the two men hired a pilot to fly a 15-day trip to get the plane from Europe to Buffalo, N.Y.

The Hendricksons planned to enter the plane in air shows across the country. Hendrickson already flies several of his military planes in air shows.

The younger Hendrickson said once the Skyraider had made a successful run in air shows, he planned to donate the aircraft in his father's honor.

"Ultimately, my intentions from the beginning have been to fly this plane for five to 10 years in air shows and then donate it to the Southern Museum of Flight in my father's name."

Now, Hendrickson worries that the government will destroy the vintage aircraft.

"I just don't get it," Hendrickson said. "This is a part of American history. It is of no danger to the government."


ScottJ said...

I often wonder where the blackpowder canon of the Civil War re-enactors fall on the ATF radar.

Tom Austin said...

Well, if a non-firing collection of parts can be a Class III weapon, I guess an unarmed vehicle can be a Destructive Device.

Mayberry said...

Absolutely ridiculous....

ScottJ, I dunno, but I want one!

j said...

Scott - you may have said that half in jest but I won't be surprised if the SS wannabes update the list of forbidden items to include any device which emits a projectile capable of inflicting discomfort... blowguns, bows, pea shooters, slingshots...
but each day, each new outrage that they commit brings them further into a zone that they may not really wish to occupy.

Anonymous said...

Re: ScottJ

As of now, they are still legal.
But with the way the BATFU thugs seem to run things, I can't say for sure that they will remain legal if the future becomes more and more oppressive.

Totalitarians have only one aim: total control and making sure their subjects could not fight back. In "1984", the average citizen of Oceania could not even obtain a razor blade. Razor blades were a privilege only to be enjoyed by the black-clad members of the Inner Party, the elite, and the Thought Police. Also, the Inner Party members were the only people who had the privilege of actually turning off the telescreens in their homes.

Kristopher said...

Civil war era cannons and replicas are muzzleloaders, do not used fixed ammo, and are therfor not covered.

A WWII vintage 8 inch artillery piece does not use fixed ammo - separate bags of powder and a separate shell - so it is not technically a firearm as well.

An 8" projo is covered if it is an explosive shell.

Parrothead Jeff said...

Thanks for bringing this one up, Mike. It's a case of bovine scatology if I've ever seen one.

Defender said...

Fascinating. Under ATF jurisdiction supposedly because it ONCE had a gun mounted on it.
What about the "technicals" popular with African warlords: a Toyota pickup with a pedestal-mounted heavy machine gun in the bed? Can they seize your import pickup for suspicious bolt holes? Don't give them any ideas.
Meanwhile, production of the civilian Hummer, based on our military Humvee, is being awarded to Communist CHINA.

ScottJ said...

I'd love one too, Mayberry.

But from what I've seen online of the costs involved I'd just as soon have a Barrett.

Toaster 802 said...

If he had "smuggled" an batch of illegal aliens over from France, the ICE guys would not have blinked an eye.

The Military channel is running a show as we speak about the skyraider. Want to bet the reason for this is the navy wants its aircraft back? They have been repo'ing all sorts of WW2 aircraft from people who have them without due proccess for years now. This is another case I will bet.

Mk. 106 said...

Yuk Yuk!!! "there are no obsolete weapons, only obsolete tactics." Few things would be more amusing than to watch a bunch of guv'mint shock troops get surprised on the ground by an armed and functional skyraider! If used in the environment for which it was designed, there is absolutely nothing "obsolete" about it. The only practical difference between it and an A-10 is that the A-10 uses more fuel. I do feel for the guy though, and hope he wins his fight, which I'm fairly certain he will. There was a guy who DID smuggle a Mig-23 into Florida a few years ago though.... He didn't fare so well.

Mk. 106 said...

And it gets far worse. For an interesting example of how petty and backward the government can be in such cases, I submit this example...

Sentenza said...

It's the ATF. They make up the rules as they go along.

I wonder if this guy could use the ex post facto law argument.

Ryan said...

That seems utterly insane to me.

Anonymous said...

With this guy you will never know what his true intention were or are he makes it up as he goes along. He bought it because when it hit U.S. soil it's value increased from 100,000 dol to 1,000,000 dol now that's the rest of the story.

ScottJ said...

With this guy you will never know what his true intention were or are he makes it up as he goes along. He bought it because when it hit U.S. soil it's value increased from 100,000 dol to 1,000,000 dol now that's the rest of the story.

Even if his motives are pure profiteering that doesn't change the fact the fedgov is trampling his personal property rights.