A Kenai air charter owner who lost his aviation licenses last month says the government came after him because he's the son of the imprisoned leader of the Montana Freemen, who held U.S. marshals at bay for 81 days in 1996.
Craig Schweitzer, son of Freemen leader Leroy Schweitzer, has had legal disputes with neighbors since bringing Mavrik Aire to Alaska the same year as the Montana standoff but says he has tried to follow the rules.
He now says maybe his dad was right to buck the system.
"As much as people love America -- and I feel for it too -- I think our government has betrayed us," Schweitzer said. "There are men who fought and died for the freedoms we're supposed to have in this country."
On Thursday an administrative law judge rejected Schweitzer's appeal of the license revocation, upholding the Federal Aviation Administration decision.
The Freemen, a self-described "Christian Patriot" group that rejected federal authority, set up its own common-law court and placed liens on public officials' property. When authorities arrested the elder Schweitzer, his followers refused to leave their ranch compound during a long standoff. Ultimately they surrendered, and Schweitzer was sentenced to 22 years on charges including conspiracy, bank fraud, false claims to the IRS and threats against public officials.
Craig Schweitzer said FAA inspectors have long sought reasons to shut him down because of his family ties. He said they got him on a technicality - that he didn't disclose on a medical certificate application that he'd received a citation for refusing to take a breath test after he was pulled over on suspicion of drunken driving. He said he had disclosed that previously.
The now-retired FAA inspector who last winter built the case against Schweitzer called his accusation "malarkey" and said he investigated because of numerous rule violations, and not because of Schweitzer's name.
"Craig wants to operate according to his rules," said Spencer Hill, an inspector who retired in March. The violations in the revocation order included an allegation that Schweitzer wrote an inflated weight limit on the maintenance record for one of his company planes, causing the pilot to overload it.
FAA agents asked state troopers to accompany them to Schweitzer's home July 24 to serve him with an emergency revocation of his licenses. A trooper spokeswoman said the agents wanted backup because of fears for their own safety. Previously Schweitzer was fined $500 for assault when he allegedly threatened to get a gun and shoot a woman serving him with unrelated legal papers. On Friday he characterized that incident as a warning that he would arrest her if she did not leave his property.
The decision by the administrative law judge to uphold the license revocations means Schweitzer can't fly planes or operate a standard federal-regulation air charter, though an exemption to charter regulations in Alaska law allows Mavrik Aire to continue flying hunters to camps or lodges so long as Schweitzer is not at the controls.
Schweitzer said Friday that Americans are foolish to think their government is on their side. He said Mavrik is busy ferrying hunters and bear viewers now, but will be crippled in winter, when it relies on the charter license to fly freight around Alaska. He said flying is all he has known since he grew up learning from his father, a Montana crop duster who first tangled with officials over taxes on equipment.
"The government can come in and squash out the little guy - the same government that my dad was fighting for 20 years," Schweitzer said.
Schweitzer first flew in Alaska for another charter service in 1993, he said.
"Way back when my dad was fighting this battle, I said you should play by the rules. I did that for 15 years and all the sudden they said you can no longer work here."
"That's the court system that you guys have in this country," he said.
Jul. 26--SOLDOTNA -- Federal officials have revoked a Kenai air charter owner's licenses, listing a string of violations that include falsifying a medical clearance application after a DUI...
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