Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Of flight reviews and mid-air collisions

I took (sat for, engaged in, whatever) my biennial flight review yesterday, so I was able to ask my flight instructor what he thought of the recent collision over the Hudson River. He was a bit harder on the flight controller than I am inclined to be. (See A Collision, O the horror! below.) To me, flying under Visual Flight rules (‘see and avoid’) puts the onus entirely on the pilot. You just don’t climb into the path of a sight-seeing helicopter, period. That’s why any self-respecting airplane has a view window built into the overhead.

Now everyone is dumping on the flight controller because he was on the phone and evidently flirting with someone investigating a dead cat on the runway. Well, dead cats are certainly worth investigating, though flirting I suppose should be out of bounds. But the bureaucrat’s tendency is always to find someone to blame, and to discipline. You can’t discipline a dead pilot, though in this case he deserves it, in my opinion. So the flight controller may well elected to walk the walk of shame. A pity the bureaucrats aren’t half so eager to police the daily carnage on our highways, which kill more people every year than general aviation has done since the Wright Brothers’ first flight.

However that may be, I passed the review and am good to fly for two more years. Accordingly, last night I raised a glass to the late Erik Shilling of the AVG Flying Tigers. It was Erik who, ten years ago, goaded me into taking my first flying lesson, one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. Blue skies! – Dan Ford

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