Should We Have Published This Video?
For many of our readers, AVweb is not just an aviation news and feature service, but also, at times, an ethical or moral sounding board. We are sometimes expected to be, to paraphrase Tom Wolfe, a lonely beacon of restraint in a squall of aviation crazies who strut the stage on YouTube.
If we're to meet that expectation, why ever did we publish this video without comment or at least neutrality bordering on acceptance? In case you're not in the click-through mood, that's the one where the pilot of a skydive Dornier does a wing over—if not a split-S—and rolls out on a 50-foot final after a steep turn equally low. This occurred in Europe, by the way. I'm not sure what regulations apply there, but it doesn't matter. Whether a regulatory infraction or not, beyond the edge is beyond the edge no matter where it occurs.
Reader Ken Holston wrote to ask if we got buried in mail on that one. We heard from quite a few readers who were unimpressed with the flying itself and less impressed with our decision to publish the video. Asks Holston, did I intend to let this one go without commenting?
Actually, I didn't. I made a note to blog on it the week it appeared and promptly forgot to do it. Not that I'm necessarily the ideal guy for this for having been one of the crazies in the back jumping out and also having flown a load or two of jumpers, my risk tolerance isn't exactly standard issue. Nonetheless, the flying in that video—however skilled—is outside the bounds of common sense, even for a skydiving operation. There's just no defensible reason for that kind of horsing around and a lot of reasons not to, not the least of which is that makes us all look infantile, in my opinion. The guy flying that airplane has, I'm sure, a certificate stamped commercial. Professionalism it ain't, in my view. Risk resides in an envelope too and in a high-angle bank at that altitude, one wing is poking right out of it.
By their very nature, skydiving operations tend toward the higher risk end of the spectrum. With dozens of takeoffs and landings a day and six or eight people hanging off the airframe for an exit, the sport is risky enough without adding more. Jumpers sign on for a safe ride to altitude, not necessarily an e-ticket airplane ride. It's true that this video involved the landing phase, but the thrill-ride has happened on takeoff, too, with disastrous results.
I've been at enough dropzones to know this is hardly common practice because DZOs won't tolerate it, or at least they shouldn't. Dropzones often have enough tension with the local airport operators without making it worse by pushing outside the envelope of acceptable behavior in the pattern. There's just no point to it.
So why did we publish it, you might logically ask? Should we just give it a pass and aim for the path of enlightenment by pretending it doesn't exist? Once again, I plead the Fifth. I'm strongly biased toward letting people see things on their own terms and decide on their own terms whether that thing is right or wrong. I'll stick my snoot into it and comment if I think what I'm seeing is exceptionally egregious, which this definitely was, in my view. There was an opportunity there to have an educational moment and I just botched it. Next time, I'll try not to. That context considered, would I make the same decision to publish again? Yes, but I'd try to make it count for something other than just the shock value.