A380 At OSH: Yeah, It Was a Hard Landing
Somewhere in that little book of unwritten rules that pilots are supposed to adhere to is one that says thou shalt not criticize another airman. This is observed or ignored to varying degrees, thus it was no surprise that we received a blizzard of e-mail on Dan Gryder's commentary on the spectacular arrival of the Airbus A380 here in Oshkosh on Tuesday afternoon.
Not to put too delicate a point on it, but the vast majority of this reaction is of the "dear idiots" variety. "You should be embarrassed for doing this," wrote one viewer. But every tenth comment or so is from some heavy driver—Boeing or Airbus—who says Gryder nailed it and had the guts to say so. Most of the adverse reaction attacks not the analysis of the landing itself, but the fact that Gryder stepped over some imaginary line in stating bluntly what he thought of it.
A few correspondents insisted that the 380's touchdown was perfectly normal for airline operations, but my view is that this argument is just not credible. Look at the video again and decide for yourself. If you're a pilot with heavy aircraft experience, I invite you to post your comments below, pro or con. Reasonable people might disagree on this, but my guess is they are sitting around a conference room in Toulouse looking at that video and that the FDR data has been examined.
Some of our correspondents interpret all of this as Airbus bashing. But I actually think it's the reverse. Airbus deserves kudos for bringing the 380 to Oshkosh—not to mention building the thing in the first place—and its awkward touchdown represents one thing and one thing only: less than optimal airmanship on that day, on that landing.
Dan Gryder and I had a conversation about his description of the touchdown as "ugly," a word that inflamed many who saw the video. When I brought the subject up, he looked at me as if to ask if I'd call the landing pretty. Ummm, no, I wouldn't, although some e-mail improbably insisted that it was. Gryder likes his truth unvarnished and referring to the rule above, some readers and viewers don't like the truth at all and would simply prefer to leave the subject untouched. As an aviation Web site, we promote the industry vigorously, but that doesn't mean we have to be mindless cheerleaders.
And at this juncture, a word about editorial judgment. When I was editing the video and patching in Gryder's comments, I had some misgivings about the commentary being too strong. I won't pretend to say that we aired the video in the name of aviation safety. We aired it because it was interesting and Gryder's comments—whether you agree with them or not—represented what seems to be popularly called a teachable moment.
If I had the judgment to make again, I'd make it the same way.