My lone act of civil disobedience as a teenager in the 1970s (there were other instances of just plain disobedience) was to walk in a pack of hundreds of other jean-jacketed and bell-bottomed youths from our high school to the local courthouse to express our displeasure at the impending nuclear test at Amchitka Island.

There was plenty of righteous indignation that the military industrial complex could light the fuse on a five-megaton bomb at the westernmost tip of the Aleutian Islands but not much in the way of disobedience. I suppose we blocked a couple of roads and filled all the stone steps to the entrance of Vernon, B.C.’s grandest building, but mostly it was a few hours when we would normally have been in school.

The little old lady photographer for the local newspaper, who would, 10 years later, become a dear colleague of mine, was there with her Rollieflex and I made sure to avoid that double lensed incriminator. My dad had recently retired as a senior officer in NORAD and had the kind of security clearances that ensured he took secrets about that test and many other aspects of the alliance’s nuclear capabilities to an early grave a few years later.

He would not have enjoyed seeing my pimply face on the front page of the Vernon Daily News but probably not for the reasons you think. I think he hated nuclear weapons as much as the raggedy speakers at the protest professed to, but he also knew that what he did for a living ensured that my casual attendance in that expression of freedom of assembly and speech might get me a detention but it wouldn’t get me beaten up or thrown in jail or worse.

It never came up because I dodged that Rollieflex and its elderly operator successfully and you won’t see me in that photo. My utter lack of commitment to the cause gave me no reason to discuss it. It looked like fun so I went.

I’m sure there are still harmless little gatherings like that, complete with the whiff of pot smoke in the air, but a lot of the protests we hear about these days have a harder edge and the consequences from the forms of expression chosen by some of today’s protesters are potentially more dire.

Business jets have become the target of climate protesters, particularly in Europe, and when it was screaming kids locking hands to block maneuvering surfaces or mounting social media tirades against pop icons for their kerosene habits it was tolerable, maybe even useful to the whole discussion surrounding aviation sustainability.

Last week, though, a couple of twenty-somethings got on the ramp at Stansted Airport near London and doused a Gulfstream and maybe some others with orange paint shot from fire extinguishers. It suggests a degree of planning and sophistication that, in my mind, tarnishes the altruism of their cause, but it was a clumsy failure anyway.

Their target was pop star Taylor Swift’s plane because she has become the symbol of fossil fuel excess for her globe-trotting Eras tour. These kids may now well understand how serious it is to tamper with aircraft, and I have a feeling they’re about to find out how expensive it is.

It raises the issues of the right to security, safety and privacy that all people have, regardless of how rich, entitled, pompous or elitist others might consider them. For what it’s worth, Swift reportedly buys twice as many carbon credits as the megalithic collection of aircraft, trucks, buses and limos needed to support that kind of extravaganza spews. And the simple fact is, if the world wants Taylor Swift, which it certainly seems to, then it must accept private aviation. Without it, there is no pop music, not to mention professional sports and a host of other activities that humans like to watch for their amusement.

And while we tend to experience the talents and exploits of these cultural icons in a one-sided transaction, we all share some responsibility for the personal safety of those whose talents we crave. And that might mean giving up a little ourselves.

At the root of the protest at Stansted was the frivolous use of ADS-B. I’m not sure how these kids missed Swift because there are dozens of websites devoted to tracking her every movement in the air. There are plenty of good reasons for ADS-B, but tracking celebrities isn’t one of them so maybe it’s time we stopped.

There is simply no good reason for the general public to be able to identify and track individual aircraft. No one standing on the ground or huddled in their mother’s basement has the slightest personal interest or stake in the precise location of anyone’s aircraft. Certainly there are those who do need to have that information, but whether Swift actually landed at Stansted or sent a decoy was none of those protesters’ business.

Furthermore, their actions raised the specter of escalation. How they managed to get fire extinguishers full of paint onto the ramp of a major airport legitimately supports a host of “what-if” scenarios.

There will be reaction to this blog along the lines that that there should be no special rules for Swift or Elon Musk or (insert celebrity here) and I couldn’t agree more. We should all be able to opt out of having our aircraft tracked by anyone who has no practical interest in where it is or where it’s going.

We don’t allow anyone with an internet connection to track private vehicles or buses or boats and we don’t wrap ourselves in the flag complaining about it. Tracking planes was a neat new tech that we didn’t need and some are confusing it with constitutional rights.

Having said all that, I still think those who want to make their flights publicly trackable by ADS-B should be able to. Who would want that, you ask? Well, me and perhaps more importantly, my wife. In the next few weeks we’re adding a uAvionix TailBeacon X to the rudder of our Cessna 140 as part of a future video project on the Canadian ADS-B mandate and its requirement to send signals to satellites.

The unit satisfies the future mandate and gets us a neat little piece of electronic wizardry that will go just above the row of stainless steel art deco piano key switches on the 78-year-old panel. But from a personal point of view, the biggest bonus is the ability of friends and family to type a couple of keys and to be able to see exactly where I am when I’m flying (not that I ever go very far). And, God forbid, it may make the difference in finding me if for some reason that breadcrumb trail stops displaying.

How we set it all up to opt in or opt out is for much smarter people than me to figure out but you can’t tell me that there’s no way to do it. It’s just one of those unforeseen consequences of an otherwise excellent technology that provides myriad benefits for safety and efficiency. There must be a fix for this little glitch.

And if you ever want to see me while I commit aviation, look up C-FEMK on your choice of ADS-B tracking sites starting in August. I’m not sure why you would, but you’re certainly welcome to.

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