Public use aircraft also have a difficult time staying within the definition of "public use." In some cases, flight training and certain missions are not considered "public use" and alternate arrangements must be made. For example, public use aircraft cannot perform transport of passengers. That means whether a local government is moving prisoners or moving firefighters, they have to use civil aircraft--aircraft that are in compliance with FAA regulations. The result of this requirement, as interpreted by FAA, is that prisoners cannot be transported while restrained in handcuffs. The FAA does not permit passengers to be forcibly restrained, because in an emergency they would be unable to protect themselves or be safely evacuated from an aircraft. Another problem is in firefighting. Firefighting activities are permitted to be conducted by public use aircraft, but the transport of firefighters to the area of the fire is not allowed with public use aircraft. Aviation units that use military surplus aircraft have to constantly keep the "public use" concept in mind when performing operational missions. Although not intentional, an agency can unwittingly run afoul of the regulations by performing a mission that is not considered "public use". This can lead to civil and regulatory penalties. The whole issue of public use aircraft is so complex that the Airborne Law Enforcement Association (ALEA) has devoted considerable time and resources in helping police aviation units sort out the rules, regulations and procedures.
As a whole, the military aircraft surplus program is viewed as a success. The benefits enjoyed by many agencies by operating these aircraft are numerous. However, as in many different areas of law enforcement, the introduction of military surplus aircraft requires a strong commitment to leadership, professionalism and good old hard work to make sure the particular program is conducted safely and effectively.