ACRO E-mail Archive Thread: [Acro] Fun at airshows
[International Aerobatic Club] [Communications] [Aerobatics Images]
Thread: [Acro] Fun at airshows
Message: [Acro] Fun at airshows
Follow-Up To: ACRO Email list (for List Members only)
From: Larry Lowe <webmaster at airspacemag.com>
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.