Commission Bases Decision on False Information
American Patrol Report – April 15, 2010
In a proceeding that some likened to a kangaroo court, the Cochise County Planning Commission voted yesterday to refuse to allow American Border Patrol to operated its Challenger II aircraft off its border ranch in Southeastern Arizona. ABP had planned to use to the Challenger to watch for suspicious activity along the border, especially threats from drug cartels. In 2007, a threat of spreading gang activity in the Mexican town of Cananea, 25 miles south of ABP’s ranch, shut down schools in Naco, Arizona, 15 miles east of the ranch.
The planning commission relied heavily on a report by staffer Keith Dennis, which Spencer said was full of falsehoods. “Dennis gave two instances where I was cited for code violations that simply didn’t happen,” Spencer said. During the commission’s deliberations, members cited these violations as the basis for their negative votes.
Dennis told the commission that Spencer had been cited for a code violation in 2004 when he built a small runway for UAVs on his property. Spencer said he could hardly have been cited since didn’t own the property in question and he didn’t build the airstrip. Dennis also claimed that Spencer built an airstrip in his existing ranch in 2009, which Spencer denied. “What this guy is claiming is an airstrip is a driveway that has been there for years, and he knew it” Spencer said.
During the hearing Dennis claimed that Spencer had done work on the “airstrip” in 2007, which Spencer said was nothing more than driveway improvements. “I didn’t have an airplane that could land on that driveway in 2007, and I wasn’t even thinking about getting one until 2008,” Spencer said.
During the hearing Spencer demonstrated how the aircraft would not be operated at less that 500 ft altitude outside the perimeter of his property. “We can takeoff and reach an altitude of 500 feet, or the minimum FAA altitude in this area, within the perimeter of the property, so I really don’t understand why Cochise County has authority here,” Spencer said. He showed a videotape of a test that revealed that the maximum noise level during takeoff, or about forty seconds, is 63 dB at the nearest residence about 1/4 mile away – and that residence is about fifty feet below the level of the runway. All other residents in the area are at least on mile distance.
According to Spencer the entire planning report smelled of influence by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the U.S. Border Patrol.
“We will continue to operate the Challenger II from regular airports but we will not be as effective as we could have been,” Spencer said.