Tuesday, April 06, 2010

2nd Mexican helicopter sighted in U.S. airspace

The U.S. Department of Defense said it was investigating the second sighting within three weeks of a Mexican military helicopter flying in U.S. airspace over rural Zapata County. “The incident did occur and it's still under investigation,” department spokeswoman Maj. Tanya Bradsher said, confirming that the copter, believed to belong to the Mexican navy, was seen Sunday. Rick Pauza, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman, earlier in March confirmed a Mexican military helicopter hovered as long as 20 minutes on March 9 over a residential area near Falcon Lake, a reservoir on the Rio Grande. Jason Darling, a U.S. Border Patrol spokesman in Laredo, said Border Patrol agents responded to the scene of “a report originating from the community” within a half-hour of receiving it Sunday but did not see the helicopter themselves. He said the copter was reported near U.S. 83 between Zapata and Laredo. Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez said Sunday's sighting was the second one confirmed, but several others were reported to him during the past two weeks that he couldn't be sure enough about to forward to the federal government. Gonzalez said the unconfirmed incursions occurred on March 20 and on Monday and Tuesday and were reported to him by a deputy, a local news reporter, and a federal officer who the sheriff said has since been muzzled by higher-ups. “I don't want to get him involved because it sounds like they're going to fire him for saying the truth,” Gonzalez said of the officer. But Gonzalez said he didn't pass along those reports to federal officials because he wasn't sure about them. He said federal officials initially rebuffed his initial reports of the March 9 and Sunday sightings, which he made to the Joint Operations Intelligence Center because he had photos from witnesses and a pretty good idea that they were Mexican military operations. When Gonzalez told the officials he had photos, however, they blamed their lack of knowledge of it on faulty radar, he said. Then other federal officials confirmed the incidents to reporters. “It's becoming more common now every day,” he said. “My problem is we find these things out through our media instead of our government. It goes to show how incompetent I guess our government is.”...more

This would never happen if it was a wilderness area.

You will recall this language from S.1689, Bingaman's wilderness bill:

(e) Military Overflights- Nothing in this section restricts or precludes--
(1) low-level overflights of military aircraft over the wilderness areas designated by subsection (a), including military overflights that can be seen or heard within the wilderness areas;
(2) flight testing and evaluation; or
(3) the designation or creation of new units of special use airspace, or the establishment of military flight training routes, over the wilderness areas.

So you need special legislative dispensation to fly over a wilderness area. Therefore, a wilderness designation would prevent these incursions of Mexican helicopters.

Uh, oh. It just says "military" without specifying the country of origin. Maybe the Mexican navy could fly over the Potrillos after all.

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