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ACRO E-mail Archive Thread: [Acro] Fun at airshows


Thread: [Acro] Fun at airshows

Message: [Acro] Fun at airshows

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From: Larry Lowe <webmaster at>

Date: Thu, 23 May 2002 17:25:26 UTC



Granted this is not directly on the topic of competition, but I think it
is relevant enough to our times to be of interest.


Colorado Springs Gazette

May 22, 2002

Academy Liaison Mistaken For Terrorist At Air Show

By Bill McKeown, The Gazette

Max Willy Sommer went to an air show this weekend in Chattanooga, Tenn.,
intending to talk up the Air Force Academy to young people ogling the
planes. He ended up being arrested and his briefcase full of recruiting
literature blown up.

"It's a strange story," said Air Force Academy public affairs spokesman
Neil Talbot, who confirmed Tuesday that Sommer, 62, is one of about
1,900 civilian liaisons across the country who visit schools, air shows
and other public events to encourage young people to apply to the
prestigious military academy in Colorado Springs. But that official
capacity apparently didn't prevent Sommer from having a really bad day
Saturday at the Chattanooga Airport.

Sommer, a resident of Georgetown, Tenn., does not have a listed phone
number and could not be reached for comment. But a story in Tuesday's
Chattanooga Times Free Press reported Sommer was arrested by airport
police on criminal impersonation and criminal trespass charges after he
entered air show grounds allegedly wearing an Air Force uniform and
carrying two suspicious briefcases, police said. Sommer was released on
$3,000 bond later that day after being held at the Hamilton County Jail.
Police said he has a June 13 court date.

Sommer told the Tennessee paper he was not wearing a uniform but a polo
shirt, jeans and a jacket with Air Force patches sewn on it. He said he
went to the airport Saturday morning to pick up a pass and an armband.
He said he put one of his two briefcases containing recruiting
literature beneath a display table because it was bulky and went to look
for someone to issue him an armband. A security officer soon stopped him
and took him into custody. Police told the Chattanooga newspaper that
bomb-sniffing dogs had detected the residue of explosives on Sommer's
briefcase, truck and gloves found in the vehicle. Sommer told the paper
the dogs may have smelled materials he was handling while constructing a
new building for his church. "The walls are held together by rivets that
are shot from a gun, that would leave the same residue (a gun) would,"
he said.

Police told the newspaper they were looking out for Sommer because he
had made several calls inquiring about the Air Force Thunderbirds'
schedule. Sommer told the paper he contacted the Thunderbirds precision
flying team via e-mail before Saturday and had called the air show
coordinator to ask for the Thunderbirds' itinerary.

Talbot said that didn't sound like unusual behavior for an academy
liaison. He said he himself would try to enlist members of the elite
flying team if he was hoping to generate interest in the academy among
young people. Sommer told the newspaper that throughout his hellish day
at the air show, no law enforcement official ever asked him who he was
with or why he was on the air show grounds.

"All they had to do was call the Air Force Academy and talk to (my
director)," Sommer said. "I was trying to cooperate, and there was no
reason to blow up my stuff.

"It all breaks down to very bad communication, and people jumped to
conclusions. I'm disgusted that more questions weren't asked. After
9-11, I understand what we have to go through, but that does not mean we
have to get carried away."

The indignity stretched beyond that one day, too, Sommer told the paper:
On Monday, Secret Service agents came to his home to investigate a
report he had threatened the president. He said the agents "left with a
smile, because they knew how ridiculous the charge was."

Talbot said Tuesday he has fielded a half-dozen calls about the strange
goings-on at the Chattanooga air show. He said the academy doesn't have
a role in what happens next, except perhaps to let Tennessee authorities
know Sommer is indeed an academy liaison and it is part of his duties to
attend air shows. Beyond that, academy officials are a bit stumped about
all the flak flying at the air show.

"There is obviously more to the picture than we know about," Talbot said.


© Dr. Günther Eichhorn
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