On Saturday, July 19 my wife and I enjoyed watching and photographing aircraft at O'Hare. We went to St Johannes Cemetery, which has a great view of aircraft landing on 9R, except for the two big fences that make photography difficult.
After about an hour of watching, the winds shifted, and the controllers routed incoming flights the other direction onto 27L. So we drove over to that great spot near Lawrence and Mannheim to enjoy incoming aircraft. I'm pretty sure it's a public road, as there are "no parking 2am-6am" signs along it. In the past I have seen Schiller Park PD drive by and not hassle spotters at all.
Well last Saturday, after we had been there a few minutes, a guy in an unmarked vehicle came up to us with blue and red lights flashing. He stepped out of the car and was wearing a Chicago Police shirt. He asked us for our identification, and we complied. He then logged our identities and the license plate of our car, as well as our home phone number. After a few minutes, he was done, and we asked what was going to happen. He said that people who "show and interest in and are photographing" airplanes get their identities logged and that "if anything ever happened to an incoming plane" then the FBI would call us.
I have some general questions to ask, including:
1) Who decided to record the identities of spotters at O'Hare?
2) Will this affect me when it comes to flying in any way? I know the TSA has a list of passengers, and that they are being very secretive about it. Am I going to be added to the list? I'm flying out of MDW on Friday and if something out of the ordinary happens, I'll report it here.
3) Do I now have a file with the FBI? Or perhaps if I did earlier, is this now appended to it? I have to think the answer is yes.
4) Is this really Chicago? It seems to me like the land might actually be in Schiller Park. And if that's the case, does the CPD have any authority to do what this guy did?
5) And what if I hadn't complied? I was thinking of maybe parking at the office building just south of the spotting area and riding my bicycle the few hundred feet to the spot, and intentionally leaving my wallet in the car. What would happen if I refused to identify myself?
6) And was I breaking any sort of law? I have to think I wasn't.
I'm looking forward to comments from the group. Thanks.
ps To add insult to injury, our photos from that day were rejected here at airliners.net That darned fence at the cemetery is too high.