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Shop grounded (Looks like R/C Airplanes to be banned?)
The Clanto Advertiser ^ | March 13, 2003 | Jason Green

Posted on 03/18/2003 6:00:43 AM PST by ItsTheMediaStupid

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March 13-464, 2003 Shop grounded

By Jason Green

A closed sign sits in the window of Clanton's Hobby Shop. It's been there for three weeks and now it sits next to a recently placed for sale sign.

Store owner Ricky Ritch said that he had little choice but to close his business when the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials asked him to stop selling remote control airplanes, rockets, helicopters and fuel containing more than 20 percent nitroglycerin.

On Wednesday, Ritch received a visit from the Justice department, the Homeland Security department and agents from the FBI's Montgomery and Birmingham field offices. That visit confirmed the items he was selling and custom building are now on a list of items the government believes terrorists have begun to use.

The shop owner said he was shocked at the revelation, but once he began thinking about it, he could see how someone could use like items for less-than upright purposes.

"I have planes and helicopters in stock that could carry a pay-load of 40 pounds or so," he said. "I never thought about any of this stuff being more than toys until I started watching television and saw the big deal they were making out of it. Now I am concerned that something I have built in the past might have been or is being used to harm someone else."

Odd communications

The events which have unfolded in Ritch's life and the life of his relatively new local business have also gotten him thinking about visits and phone calls he has received over the course of the past few months. He said there have been out of the ordinary questions regarding the potential payload capacity of certain aircraft as well as the best possible speed of some of the "toys" he sells.

"I originally just thought it was someone interested in getting into the hobby," he explained. "But, now that I think about it, there have been some calls which really didn't make sense. The questions they asked never really had anything to do with getting into the hobby."

Ritch said he is now left with the fear that items he has already built have fallen into the hands of people whom could potentially do harm to American citizens. It's a fear that Ritch never thought he would have to deal with.

"It's just not something I ever thought about happening," He said. "I don't want to think about it."

Also, in 1998 while living in Los Angeles, Ritch said he built 20 aircraft for an individual in California who never wanted a receipt and always paid in cash. The customer told Ritch that he was purchasing the aircraft for friends overseas. There were questions in Ritch's mind then as to what was actually going on, but it wasn't until the customer became more and more insistent that Ritch build the aircraft bigger and more powerful that the local shop owner cut ties and ceased working for that person.

Business future

For Ritch, the items he has been encouraged not to sell make up approximately 90 percent of the current stock he has on the shelves of his Second Avenue business.

"I stand to lose about $125,000 because of this," Ritch explained. "The things that make money here are the planes and the fuel. The United Parcel Service and Federal Express are no longer allowed to deliver the types of fuel that it takes to power most of the items I sell. I've basically been put out of business."

Ritch said the only items left on his shelves the government hasn't encouraged him to refrain from selling are a few glue-together models, some remote controlled cars and NASCAR memorabilia. In fact, the remote control cars do Ritch little good, he said, because the fuel it takes to make the vehicles capable of high performance activity can't be delivered. Once the fuel Ritch currently has in stock runs out, it will take an ATF license to purchase and distribute more.

With that in mind, Ritch said he had little choice but to begin thinking about the future of his business. He can either completely change the items his business carries or he can pack everything up and wait. That wait would be until May 24, when Congress reconvenes to discuss the matter of model aircraft and remote controlled aircraft being used by terrorists in attacks.

"I was so disturbed by the entire ordeal that I called my real estate agent and told them to put the store on the market," he added. "As long as it sits there I'm losing money and if I can't sell the items that make me money, it's not much of a business."

Ritch, who is also attempting to sell his home in Clanton and planning to build another in the area, said he doesn't know what his next step is.

He said he must now consider moving into a smaller store and changing the kinds of toys he sells.

Gladly complying

Ritch indicated he wasn't told to close his store. However, being unable to sell 90 percent of his stock apparently leaves him with no other viable options. Selling the fuel Ritch currently has in stock will require specific actions in compliance with Homeland Security mandates. The purchaser, as will Ritch, will have to be licensed with the ATF and will be required to undergo background checks among other measures prior to the merchandise changing hands.

Ritch said that it's hard for him to imagine having to do that. Based on information given to him by the FBI and Homeland Security, he has little choice. He will comply.

"I don't think the FBI or Homeland Security or the U.S. Justice Department are organizations that I can take on," he said. "I'll do what they've asked me to do and have I'll have to deal with it. I just could not have imagined this ever happening. All I know is that I would hate to be the guy that sold something that was used to blow something up or was used to knock a plane out of the sky."

Ray Zicarelli, an agent with the Mobile FBI Field Office, said late Thursday afternoon that he could not confirm whether or not agents had been in Clanton. However, he did confirm that there was be some interest in some hobby shops throughout the country.

"There has been no nation-wide canvassing of hobby shops, but the FBI is interested in some hobby shops as they apply to model aircraft," Zicarelli said. "We do not comment on which we have contacted based on security issues. I can say that we have no indication that there is any cause for concern in the area."


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Crime/Corruption; Government; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: models; patriotact; poorjournalism; radiocontrol; rc
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Lot's of things wrong in this story. So the visit by the FBI, et al, probably never happened.
1 posted on 03/18/2003 6:00:43 AM PST by ItsTheMediaStupid
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Comment #2 Removed by Moderator

To: ItsTheMediaStupid
Sounds phoney... anyway, I'm glad I fly RC sailplanes.
W9NM
3 posted on 03/18/2003 6:09:43 AM PST by eborys
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To: ItsTheMediaStupid
More to the point...this guy is lying about why the store is closed.

I think we have reason to ask what he WAS up to.
4 posted on 03/18/2003 6:11:13 AM PST by Poohbah (Beware the fury of a patient man -- John Dryden)
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To: ItsTheMediaStupid
The model fuels use alcohol and nitromethane, not nitroglycerin. They are not explosive, only flammable.
5 posted on 03/18/2003 6:14:28 AM PST by Sender (-A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. -WOPR-)
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To: Poohbah
I agree.
6 posted on 03/18/2003 6:14:38 AM PST by sport
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To: ItsTheMediaStupid
Model rocket engines above mid-G rating are now verboten. Won't effect the Estes kids stuff (a-d rated engines) but I did love the sound of a I or J heading off the pad
7 posted on 03/18/2003 6:15:07 AM PST by pikachu (The REAL script)
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To: ItsTheMediaStupid
Lot's of things wrong in this story. So the visit by the FBI, et al, probably never happened.

I doubt this is policy, or there would have been more stories, and probably press releases from Homeland security.
Sounds like some over the top local FBI or ATF office has misinterpreted things. The ATF is Very Good at that.

So9

8 posted on 03/18/2003 6:15:15 AM PST by Servant of the Nine (JDAM the Arabs, Full Speed Ahead)
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To: ItsTheMediaStupid
Maybe the guy was just going out of business anyway.

I used to fly RC planes but I have been wondering if the various RC clubs have discussed with one another that they should be alert for newcomers to the hobby that may appear just interested in getting the aircraft up in the air and how to fly it straight and level.
9 posted on 03/18/2003 6:18:30 AM PST by KeyLargo
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To: ItsTheMediaStupid
I fly electric RC planes (some flights are shorter than others ;-). This all sounds very unusual.
10 posted on 03/18/2003 6:22:07 AM PST by DB ()
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To: ItsTheMediaStupid
I just got my first R/C plane for Christmas and it is now built with the exception of the servos being hooked up. They will be this week and I hope I get to fly it this weekend or next. I have wanted one for twenty years and my wife got me one for Christmas.

I went to an R/C plane hobby shop last week in western Ky. to pick up a new controller and they were doing a very good business. They didn't say anything about Feds stopping this hobby or anything like that. I talked to them about becoming a regular customer and buying my supplies from them. I would have no idea about this guy in the article, but it does sound suspicious.

11 posted on 03/18/2003 6:22:38 AM PST by freedom4ever
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To: ItsTheMediaStupid
"I have planes and helicopters in stock that could carry a pay-load of 40 pounds or so,"

Flying 40lbs. of plastic explosives into the grandstands of a baseball game or a NASCAR event would be a pretty effective way to send a message.

12 posted on 03/18/2003 6:22:51 AM PST by dead
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To: Poohbah
Note the fuel used. It's not correct. It's nitromethane not nitroglycerin, it can be shipped through UPS for an additional surcharge, and does not require an ATF license. Also I don't know of any R/C helicoptors that can carry a 40 pound payload.
13 posted on 03/18/2003 6:24:16 AM PST by ItsTheMediaStupid
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To: ItsTheMediaStupid
Guess the feds are monitoring this forum. See my post #76 here
14 posted on 03/18/2003 6:30:29 AM PST by dark_lord
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To: ItsTheMediaStupid
I just looked at the Byron's fuel I have. It is one gal. and contains 15% nitro methane.
15 posted on 03/18/2003 6:32:44 AM PST by freedom4ever
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To: dark_lord
If we are going to start banning and prohibiting products, because terrorist may potentially use it, we are all going to end up naked and hungry. The very first thing on my list would be trucks, and then cars. But, I am sure we can work our way down to pots and pans after that.
16 posted on 03/18/2003 6:33:34 AM PST by ARCADIA (Abuse of power comes as no surprise)
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To: ItsTheMediaStupid
I have looked through the Patriot Act to find the details that outlines rockets and RC's. Does anyone know what section this may be found in? If it is there, is it sneaking in provisions for banning primers and reloading powders?
17 posted on 03/18/2003 6:36:05 AM PST by Deguello
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To: dark_lord
Guess the feds are monitoring this forum. See my post #76 here.

And your point is???

18 posted on 03/18/2003 6:36:42 AM PST by ItsTheMediaStupid
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To: ItsTheMediaStupid
This guy is not dealing with the little planes we are all used to seeing.

With 40 pound payloads, it's likely he's dealing with 1/4 scale models.

19 posted on 03/18/2003 6:44:11 AM PST by TC Rider (The United States Constitution 1791. All Rights Reserved.)
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To: TC Rider
But, from modelers in the area, his largest plane was a .40 ducted fan model. I doubt it can carry more than 3 or four pounds of payload.
20 posted on 03/18/2003 6:55:25 AM PST by ItsTheMediaStupid
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