SC

Secret “No Fly Zones” In SC

GLIDER PILOT ILLEGALLY ARRESTED, DETAINED BY PEE DEE SHERIFF’S DEPUTIES A 70-year-old glider pilot was arrested and detained for thirty hours last summer after his glider got too close to the H.B. Robinson Nuclear Generating Station in Hartsville, S.C. But was it the Darlington County (S.C.) Sheriff’s deputies who ran…

glider terrorist

GLIDER PILOT ILLEGALLY ARRESTED, DETAINED BY PEE DEE SHERIFF’S DEPUTIES

A 70-year-old glider pilot was arrested and detained for thirty hours last summer after his glider got too close to the H.B. Robinson Nuclear Generating Station in Hartsville, S.C.

But was it the Darlington County (S.C.) Sheriff’s deputies who ran afoul of the law when they arrested veteran glider pilot Robin Fleming last July and charged  him with “breaching the peace?”

After all Fleming violated no airspace restrictions – in fact the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) permitted him to continue his flight. Additionally, ground personel at the nuclear station were informed of the FAA decision – and were reassured the aircraft was merely a recreational glider seeking lift from the lake next to the power plant.

H.B. Robinson nuclear generating station.
H.B. Robinson nuclear generating station.

More to the point, Fleming was piloting a noiseless Rolladen-Schneider LS8-18 sailplane – which one aviation source observed “is hardly capable of crashing through a chain link fence let alone being used to damage a power plant.”

Nonetheless, in the eyes of the Darlington deputies, Fleming was a wanna-be Mohammed Atta who had to be brought down – even though local law enforcement lack the authority to “order” a plane to land.

But that’s exactly what they did. Not only that, four Sheriff’s cars pursued Fleming’s glider down the Hartsville runway until it came to a complete stop – at which point Fleming was arrested for violating a “no fly zone” and “infiltrating restricted airspace.”

Sheriff’s deputies alleged Fleming passed 100 feet over H.B. Robinson’s signature domed reactor – even though flight data from the plane showed he was never closer than 1,500 feet to the facility.

Fleming’s flight – and the treatment he received after his forced landing in Hartsville – are the focus of an expansive piece by Sarah Brown in this month’s Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) magazine.

Brown’s conclusion? That a bunch of overzealous South Carolina cops overstepped their authority and violated Fleming’s civil rights.

“This has become a huge story in the aviation community,” one of our sources notes.

And another embarrassment for South Carolina.

Acknowledging their overreaction, Darlington officials eventually dropped the charge against Fleming in exchange for him agreeing not to sue the department. They’ve also been busy scrubbing negative comments from county government social media sites.

It’s a great day in South Carolina, people! As long as you stay on the ground, apparently …

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30 comments

Smirks January 21, 2013 at 10:07 am

What a joke of an arrest.

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Yosemite Sam January 21, 2013 at 10:15 am

I must have missed a critical part of this piece. But, how was the Sheriff’s Office alerted to this scofflaw in his glider? Don’t tell me an alert deputy spotted it soaring about, radioed it in and ultimately made the arrest? Some other agency must have started what, by FITS’ account, turned out to be an embarrassing situation for the Sheriff’s office.

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Jan January 21, 2013 at 10:25 am

I’m willing to bet that if Mr. H.B. Robinson had been Mr.Abdullah Al-Zahrawi this story would have an entirely different take.

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Smirks January 21, 2013 at 10:36 am

You’re probably right, which is sad.

I imagine glider planes are very limited in what weight they are capable of carrying, so even if an actual terrorist tried to do something with it, they likely wouldn’t be able to accomplish much more than putting a scorch mark on a building.

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Cocky Mike January 21, 2013 at 7:21 pm

Hey stupid… H.B. Robinson is the name of the power plant, not the name of the pilot, and Mr. Robinson has been dead for a very long time.

Nuclear power plants have a full staff of 24 hour, heavily armed guards. I once had a an engine problem on that lake several hundred feet from the damn and was told by bullhorn and lour speaker to exit the area.

How was the Darlington Sheriff’s Office supposed to know this guy was not a terrorist? It’s a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation.” Get over it.

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Jan January 22, 2013 at 3:13 pm

Cocky you are correct. I agree, I simply pick out a name. My point was if the pilot had been a Muslim, Fits would not have been critizing the policie, here. I think the police should enforce no fly zones.

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huh January 21, 2013 at 10:35 am

“Darlington officials eventually dropped the charge against Fleming in exchange for him agreeing not to sue the department.”

That definitely does not sound legal.

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shifty henry January 21, 2013 at 10:36 am

….. the deputies thought it was a UFO, and wanted to get their photos on the cover of “National Enquirer” and a medal from potus.

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shifty henry January 21, 2013 at 10:37 am

…… or else they thought it was the biggest goose they had ever seen.

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Darth January 22, 2013 at 9:50 am

only if it crapped on the golf course…

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johnb January 21, 2013 at 10:43 am

this story is very interesting on multiple levels.

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Bobby Thomas January 21, 2013 at 10:59 am

I don’t like the business of him having to agree not to sue the Sheriff’s Department in exchange for a dismissal of the charges.

Using the threat of criminal prosecution to obtain an advantage in a civil matter is not ethical conduct for any prosecutor or judge. It is also unethical for a defense attorney to condone or go along with this sort of thing.

It wouldn’t surprise me if that deal was made directly between the Sheriff’s Department and an unrepresented Mr. Flemming. It also wouldn’t surprise me if Mr. Flemming wouldn’t have been interested in pursuing a civil damages claim anyway (just based on age and the fact that he likely has enough sense to want to be up in the air rather than in some lawyer’s office or at the courthouse).

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? January 22, 2013 at 8:05 am

“I don’t like the business of him having to agree not to sue the Sheriff’s Department in exchange for a dismissal of the charges.

Using the threat of criminal prosecution to obtain an advantage in a civil matter is not ethical conduct for any prosecutor or judge. It is also unethical for a defense attorney to condone or go along with this sort of thing.”

Exactly, just the fact they did it puts them in legal jeopardy if the pilot felt like proving a point.

People seem to just gloss over the legal SS tactics and are focusing on the Fife behavior….but from this little snippet you can see the current rotteness of the justice system at its core.

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The Colonel January 21, 2013 at 11:03 am

Nothing secret about the no fly zones, they’re routinely published in NOTAMs (Notice To Airman) . Nuclear plants, most training range areas of military bases, prisons…all kinds of facilities on the lists.

The only real issue here is the Barney Fife nature of the arrest. He obviously responded to a request to land and obeyed the, dubiously legal, orders of “law enforcement” – why was there a need to “make a dramatic apprehension” on the runway…ahhhhhh, now I got it.

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Wet Willie January 21, 2013 at 11:20 am

I would have fought ether charges in court, won the criminal trial and then sue their sorry a$$e$$ and win a judgment too…. they were gonna have to drop the charges any way b/c they were out-right lying about the charges and the evidence to start with…

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Brother Martin January 21, 2013 at 11:21 am

The airport manager at the Hartsville airport was quoted in the AOPA article that she “she had to tell the officers on the scene to clear out the runway, and one officer talked about commandeering the airport. “He was running around, the one guy that was commandeering everything, saying, ‘We were going to shoot him down.”

It was reported that 17 patrol cars were at the airport and it even drew the attention of the helicopter from Chesterfield County (why does Chesterfield County need a helicopter?)

To the credit of the Chesterfield County sheriff’s office the manager said that “pilots from the Chesterfield County Sheriff flew the department’s helicopter to the airport, but left when they found out what was going on. “They pulled out a chart and they said, ‘Look here, … nothing in this chart says you cannot fly over the nuclear plant,’” she said. “’Nothing.’”

Like somebody on another board said… it sounds like the Darlington County Sherriff’s office needs more “Andy’s” and a lot less “Barney’s”.

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? January 22, 2013 at 8:02 am

“it sounds like the Darlington County Sherriff’s office needs more “Andy’s” and a lot less “Barney’s”.”

That’s a GREAT comment!

Unfortunately, you could apply to that almost every PD in the entire nation right now.

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SparkleCity January 22, 2013 at 9:45 pm

Once again, the pride of South Carolina rises to the occasion…….

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jimlewis,owb January 21, 2013 at 12:04 pm

News Flash: Most of Northeastern South Carolina and Southeastern North Carolina are under exposure of a deadly radioactive cloud.

Earlier this AM Darlington County Sheriff Deputies were called to the scene of an aircraft approaching the H.B. Robinson Nuclear Generating Station near Hartsville, S.C. The pilot of the aircraft failed to peel off as Deputies on the ground waved at the aircraft to move away. One Deputy went so far as to strip buck nakkied and run away from the Reactor grounds hoping to draw the pilot’s attention. At last report the Deputy picked up the attention of some nearby deer hounds and is still missing.

Finally, Chief Deputy Joe Bubba Bob JoHanson order the deployment of 4 heat seeking missiles to bring the aircraft down. The missiles had just been acquired by the Sheriffs Department in a new exchange program with the US Attorney General, titled A Missile for A Gun = Dead Terrorists.

As the missiles sped off everyone was ecstatic until some smart ass teenager looking on yelled to Bubba, hey lard ass that is a fucking glider it ain’t got no heat.

In no time all the Deputies were hell bent to nowhere as they sped away from the Reactor.

The same smart ass teenager who questioned Bubba’s actions called in on his Smart Phone to report that all 4 missiles hit the Reactor dead on and the resulting explosion was fucking awesome.

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shifty henry January 21, 2013 at 1:12 pm

…… hey! – it could have happened!

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Old Bike Dude January 21, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Glider pilots are nothing more than flying mimes. Asshole should’ve been waterboarded.

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Isotope Soap January 21, 2013 at 4:28 pm

Lol!

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Booyah January 21, 2013 at 7:58 pm

Incompetent hick shiteaters should leave FAA legalities to the fucking FAA.

Love the “flying mime” comment though!

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Judy Chop, Casual Hero January 21, 2013 at 8:30 pm

I bought a used glider on Craig’s List, brought it home and put an engine in it. Damn thing flew just like a effin’ airplane!

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shifty henry January 21, 2013 at 8:39 pm

…… which reminds me-

Just after dark a county deputy pulled over a car for speeding. When he shined his light into the car he saw a box with long sticks, several boxes of kitchen matches, and a couple of bottles of lighter fluid.

Thinking that he had just caught a terrorist he pulled the man out of his car and handcuffed him. Standing him up against his car the deputy screamed at him, “I gotcha, you s-o-b!”

The man screamed back, “I’m not a terrorist! I’m late for a club date – I have a little act that I do.”

“What’s that?” asked the deputy.

The man explained, “I light torches, juggle them, and put the fire out in my mouth.”

“Really,” the deputy says, “I’ve seen it on tv but never in person. Can you do it for me?”

“Sure,” says the man, “just take off the cuffs – and I usually do five but I’ll do three for you.”

The man lights the three, juggles them for a minute, and then starts putting them out in his mouth – one at a time.”

Just when he’s putting the second one in his mouth, two Bubbas slowed down staring at the scene on the side of the road.

“Hey,” says one Bubba to his friend, “it’s a good thing we quit drinking two weeks ago. Look at the drunk driving test they give you now!”

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shifty henry January 21, 2013 at 8:48 pm

…. I could have made this one shorter – law enforcement folks love this joke – but it’s funnier when heard

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Swingline January 22, 2013 at 10:56 am

He needs to sue DCSO, let them charge him, and then amend his Complaint to include malicious prosecution.

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rds February 1, 2013 at 11:06 am

“””After all Fleming violated no airspace restrictions – in fact the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) permitted him to continue his flight. Additionally, ground personel at the nuclear station were informed of the FAA decision – and were reassured the aircraft was merely a recreational glider seeking lift from the lake next to the power plant.”””

That fact made the actions of the SC agency a mistake. Flying for years I never ever remember requesting clearances from local LE. In fact my agency had a had enough time with out cars. handling air traffic around the metro NY area would have been a bit much for us.

Sounds like they overstepped their bounds here.

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Marc Jordan February 8, 2013 at 11:34 am

rds is correct, the FAA did look into the matter and walked away from it simply because there were no aviation rules broken. Had the airspace around the plant been restricted, Fleming wouldn’t have gone anywhere near it because as an experienced aviator and the FAA would have brought serious charges against him. The FAA is not like local prosecutors, which plea bargain on a daily basis, if a pilot is in violation then they will be sanctioned – no and’s if’s or but’s.

Not mentioned in any of the articles is that the FAA is the one and only agency authorized to order an aircraft to land. Local law enforcement can’t do that, nor state police – nobody.

I too wish that Fleming would not have agreed to pursue a lawsuit in exchange for the charges being dropped. That would have been a well publicized trial which law enforcement agencies around the country would have been tuned into.

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Kelly May 19, 2024 at 10:08 pm

I remember this story Mr. Fleming got bad advice from the AOPA attorney who worked out a sweet deal for the county getting him to agree not to sue I suspect he wasn’t a criminal defense attorney. He did later sue after getting his own attorney, but lost in court and at the state appeal court level. He was moving up to the federal level the DA was still fighting him unfortunately Mr. Fleming passed away I think this was around 2015-2016 so the lawsuit was dismissed. Shocking that a DA is able to use criminal prosecution to gain an advantage with a civil lawsuit when it’s clear they violated his rights. It’s unknown if he would have prevailed at the federal appeals level or even at the supreme court level. I tried to find other examples of this happening where a DA dropped illegal charges in return for an agreement giving up rights to sue for violating civil rights. I did find this was done more in the 1970s and 80’s with black defendants who rights were clearly violated they could sue under newly passed civil rights federal law. The DA would offer to drop the illegal charges in return to agree not to sue. Since most who were arrested had very little money for an attorney that’s what they did. Terrible that a DA is allowed to do this but it seems like the courts allow it.

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