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Airport security

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  • Airport security

    I know this has been discussed before, but I've been stopped twice in the last month for taking pictures. I was at a local hospital taking pics of their medical helicopter. Hospital security stopped and asked it I was "cleared" to take pictures of the helicopter. I said no, but I do know the chief pilot. He told me that taking pictures of the helicopter on hospital grounds was considered "suspiscious" activity and I needed to check in with the security office before I could continue. I asked it I could take other pics on hospital grounds. He said that would not be a problem, but I could not take pics of the helicopter without authorization.
    At Memphis, I was taking pictures of the FedEx airplanes from the hotel's exterior stairway. Airport police stopped and asked I had had clearance to take pictures of the airport property. I said no but I was not on the airport. He said it didn't matter, due to security reasons, photography of any part of the airport requires permission from airport security and management even if I am not on airport grounds.
    Once inside the concourse, I proceeded to take plenty of pics looking out the terminal windows in plain view of TSA and airport police. Nobody complained and a couple of them even said hi to me.
    I probably should have asked the hospital for permission since I was on their property but the Memphis airport cop was a bit over the top.
    How many of you have been accused of "suspiscious" activity and how do you handle it?
    I really don't want to be confrontational with them or have an "attitude".
    My photos at

    National Air Traffic Controllers Association

  • #2
    I was once told that it wasn't permitted to take pictures from/inside the terminal building in Mexico. Security is mostly handled by rentacops so regulations go depending on the guy's mood. That's the only time they've approached me.

    Felipe Garcia


    • #3
      If "post 9/11 security regulations" are mentioned, politely ask them to cite the acts/regulations.

      Another tack would be to get clearance from the PR/media people at an airport, then the rent-a-police people can't really do much about it.

      The hospital thing, you can't do a lot about that except talk to the security people there first.

      I've never had problems with security, but I've had times where I've wished security was more visible.


      • #4
        I wrote to a contact I found at the IAH website, I think it was to someone in the customer service or security department. This is a portion of what I got back from them, back in 2009.

        Thank you for your inquiry into aircraft viewing locations here at George Bush Intercontinental Airport. Currently there are two locations which are designated as viewing areas for airliner enthusiast to observe and photograph the airplanes. The roof of the A/B parking garage is one area where you can view the aircraft. The other location is at the end of a runway on Lee Road.
        Please be aware, however, that our central dispatch needs to be informed of your presence at these locations. You can call them at [phone number]

        So seems like it would be possible to contact airports (at least the ones where you've never been to, or where cops are known to harrass spotters) and get some information like this and keep a printed copy if necessary.

        A few years back, after being constantly harassed by rentacops and city cops (who have no jurisdiction in ANY Mexican airport), someone filed an IFAI request (Mexican version of a FOIA request) asking where, on what Federal Law, was photography near airports prohibited, restrictions and definitions, because all cops would simply claim that it's prohibited to take pictures on any Federal Zone (which all airports in Mexico are), and when told that the federal zone ended at the fence, as per the signs, they would argue that these restrictions ended XX meters from the fence (as per their definition, it would be illegal to take photos of your kid at a McDonalds across the street from MMMX). They were responded, on official government paper, that the law under which airports operate did not prohibit photography outside the airport perimeter, this document (like any other IFAI requests) was made online, and many photographers carry that document when spotting. The harrasment would stop once the rentacops saw that they had an official document saying there were no such restrictions.

        Felipe Garcia


        • #5
          Funny ain't it?

          The a-wipes who really step on your rights you can't even raise a vowel against.
          Live, from a grassy knoll somewhere near you.