Who are we to judge our fellow humans as to what makes sense and what’s dangerous? If you’ve seen the AOPA Online article by Sarah Deener and YouTube video of Dutch pilot, Jaap Rademaker, landing on a cargo ship at sea in a microlight aircraft, you might wonder.
It is a remarkable piece of flying, and I give him credit for his skill and perhaps just a touch of luck. But it got me wondering about how we categorize risk. Everyone has a certain tolerance. Pilots have perhaps just a bit more than the average bear—and some pilots have a lot more. Good for Homo sapiens that there are risk takers—otherwise airplanes and big cargo ships might never have been invented. We need people to experiment, to move things forward.
Does it change your thoughts that this was a planned publicity stunt? “Rademaker, a 600-hour pilot who flies a microlight, had no military flying experience that might prepare him for a carrier-type landing. He did have experience on short fields and an incentive to promote the ship building and operating company in which he invests. What better way to spotlight a new ship designed for high-volume, low-weight cargo than to land on the aircraft-carrier-style deck?”
Quite properly, some limited precautions were taken for an inherently risky project. Was the risk worth the reward? Will it sell any more ships?
Is our perception situationally based? Here are some common GA scenarios:
- Land in a greater-than-demonstrated crosswind
- Tackle an area of widespread thunderstorms
- Land with minimum fuel
- Fly in to an area of icing with a non-approved aircraft
- Land out of an instrument approach “right at” minimums
- Take off or land at a really short strip
If everything works out you’re the ace of the base, but foul it up and we think of you as a dummy! How many times have you done something in past flight experience that you reflect on afterward and think, “That just may not have been my finest aeronautical moment.”
“Weeks after the landing, Rademaker marveled at how the stars had aligned: a willing and capable crew on the boat, camera crews in the air, and weather that made it all possible. ‘It was quite an operation in the end,’ he said. Still, it was harder than he expected. ‘I won’t do it again,’ he said. ‘I will be a sensible man in the future.’ But, he added, he’s glad he did it.”
There’s an old European saying, “We grow too soon old and too late smart.” Life is like that, especially if you’re a pilot.
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