“Wild Wild West?”

August 20, 2009 by Bruce Landsberg

john-wayneThe title for this week’s blog is the contrived sound bite by one of NY’s Borough types describing corridor operations. Their constituents deplore the air tour industry and have added a one-off accident to their list of grievances.

I had the privilege, or misfortune, to be interviewed by one of the TV stations and actually take the reporter and cameraman flying in ASF’s Piper Archer. I am, as usual, confused by what the media’s role is. Inform and engage or inflame and enrage?

Those of you who saw Rick Leventhal’s report on Fox network will immediately spot some clever editing. Rick opened with a statement that the skies ” Are more friendly than people might think.” It slid downhill after that, even though statistics clearly do not support the corridor as being unsafe. In my interview with Rick, I made it clear that there were few collisions and that avoidance equipment was already required. I also noted that most new aircraft being built today typically have either visual traffic display or audible warning or both. But both clarifications got cut. Rick, by the way, is a decent guy who is very interested in learning how to fly and that would be a plus for the future.

It’s always entertaining and infuriating to see that paragon of aviation safety knowledge, Mary Schiavo, former DOT Inspector General making unsupportable statements. One of them was that “A lot the aircraft flying do not have to have some of the most basic safety equipment there is.” Sorry Mary, but the vast majority of all aircraft are equipped with transponders – which happens to be a key part of collision avoidance equipment. And, FAR 91.215 makes it clear that all aircraft with an electrical system, which is more than 90% must be equipped with transponders when flying in this type of airspace. The transponder percentage operating near high density airspace is likely much higher.

She also conveniently failed to point out that both aircraft involved were so equipped.

The truth is that some things that can be done to improve corridor safety that will not be tremendously restrictive. AOPA and ASF are heavily engaged with FAA, NTSB, ATC and some of the local area pilots to come up with common sense suggestions.

Bruce Landsberg
Senior Safety Advisor, Air Safety Institute

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  • Chuck

    Well put Bruce, it just seemed that FOX really locked in on this accident with over a couple hundred hours of coverage to a level I have never seen in a GA accident. I do not believe the schedule 121 accident on a LAX runway got that level of coverage…I normally like FOX’s coverage, but they really went for the hype this time.

  • Lee Simkins

    Sadly, there is much less objective reporting today than in the past. News is more and more about entertainment, sensationalism, editorializing, and less about objective reporting of (perhaps less entertaining) facts.

    Many of the people I work with, and for, refuse to give interviews or sometime provide only written responses to minimize risk of being (consciously or not) misquoted or misrepresented.

    It is a challenge, for all of us who support and understand GA, to do our best to present the facts, the risks, and the rewards of GA to those with whom we interact. Based on your experience, I would take this as a warning to not trust Fox News in the future.