Top Letters And Comments, May 20, 2022


New Research Suggests There’s Still A Lot To Learn From Birds

Or… pilots could learn best landing techniques and practice accordingly, enhancing safety in that manner rather than adding complexity to the hardware. Though I do agree, there is a lot to be learned from birds, such as how to stay up all afternoon making no more than one circle in each thermal, and how to get my engine to run on earthworms and seeds. JK (= disclaimer)

Chris K.

I have a bird feeder outside my dining room window, so I watch several varieties of birds every morning during breakfast. Some of them are extremely talented, speeding in at breakneck speed and landing wherever they’ve chosen to land, absolutely perfectly. Some others speed in at breakneck speed, miss the perch, and go around for another stab at it. And unfortunately, some fewer speed in at breakneck speed, miss the perch, hit the window, and break their necks.

The only real difference I’m seeing between the birds and sitting on the sidelines watching pilots land at OSH is that the birds all wait until the very last second to slow down. Of course, that’s true of some pilots, too, I guess. It’s all fascinating.

Cary A.

The Morality of Road Landings

Landing in a field, whether full of mature corn or young wheat is a preferable option to most road landings. Landing in a grove of SMALL skinny trees is about like landing in mature corn. Ditching near shore is a better option than landing on a bridge. But, for any of those viable options a pilot with a dead engine has to have light and VMC.

Any landing against traffic is foredoomed to have a bad outcome. With exceptions, off airport NIGHT landings on a black landscape are also unlikely to turn out well for occupants of aircraft.

However, no one requires, nor should anyone expect a plane full of people to commit suicide if a SE aircraft suddenly becomes an inefficient glider. Landing WITH traffic on a freeway or divided highway is, IMHO, is low risk for both occupants of aircraft and for persons on the ground. Highway speeds for cars and Vb (best glide) for most SE aircraft are fairly similar. Flare air speeds are even closer to speeds driven on most freeways and divided highways in urban areas outside of rush hours. An approach speed of 60 kts is about 70 mph, while 70 kts is less than 81 mph. Lotsa freeways have speed limits of 70, and many states even have 80 mph posted on freeways. FWIW, I’ve only rarely seen traffic moving lockstep with posted speed limits. I’ve driven in most of the states in the lower 48. Except in congested urban areas highway speeds driven by both cars and trucks seem to average well over posted speed limits. Even well occupied divided highways and freeways have relatively frequent gaps of several hundreds of feet that might accommodate a typical SE light plane emergency landing.

Assuming 4- or five-point harnesses in the front seats of an aircraft dead sticking a highway landing I think smacking the back of semi with the nose would likely avoid both the horizontal cart wheel AND the ruptured fuel tanks I’ve seen in some highway landings. With good speed control in close approach and in the flare the potential for contact between the spinner and the back of a ground vehicle isn’t very large.

Yes, I agree that my emergency (engine failure or whatever) is not a license to harm anyone on the ground. I fly SE piston aircraft. Given that, I’ve learned to avoid night flights and IFR or MVFR in a SE piston aircraft.

Paul, et. al., have you looked at what the NTSB says about engine failure? They post annual graphics of the initiating events (they call ’em “Defining Events”). Engine failures don’t occur in not in huge numbers, but they ARE consistently among the top three causes of accidents. And, FWIW, the NTSB annual analysis shows that loss of power accidents resulting from fuel exhaustion and fuel starvation are MUCH less frequent that most of us seem to believe.

So, let’s not fly with known squawks. Preflight like our lives depend on it (because it does). Plan our flights with at least an hour of fuel in the tanks when we land… and DO land before we penetrate that sixty-minute buffer. Know our fuel burns and know what the winds are doing. And realize who is PIC (and it ain’t ATC, the passengers, or someone safely on the ground).

John T.

All is well and good to discuss on the ground from one’s desk chair, but it’s another thing entirely when you’re the one behind the controls with an engine failure (or any other emergency requiring a landing in short order).

I used to regularly fly out of College Park, and that airport is surrounded by residential and commercial buildings, with only one area to the east through northeast that isn’t built up. But unless you’re taking off in that direction, an engine failure at takeoff leaves you with hitting buildings, landing on a road, or maybe making it to a golf course if you have enough altitude. Aiming for trees likely means you will land one someone’s house. The point being that sometimes you don’t have any good choices, so you just have to make the best guess that you can and hope for the best.

Gary B.

Poll: Was the FAA Right To Revoke Certificates Of The Plane Swap Pilots?

  • Yes. It’s not a matter of being too risky. It’s a matter of professionalism. The waiver was denied and they chose to knowingly continue with the action. It shows a clear disregard for the regulations.
  • Absolutely, since the FAA had already denied permission. To do otherwise would serve to encourage other less well planned out stunts.
  • So, these two are skilled sky-divers, and modified the aircraft to minimize risks. However, the FAA said NO to a waiver of the FARs and they did it anyway. I could steal a pack of gum at Walmart, and no one would be hurt, but laws, rules, and a moral code is what keeps our society working. They flouted the law and those are the consequences.
  • Crashing planes for movies was common in the past. Why is this much different if it didn’t result in anyone getting hurt or have a high likelihood of getting hurt. Are other extreme aviation feats going to be punished?
  • If the FAA was making an example of these pilots then, I applaud them. Recreational pilots are continually fighting an uphill battle with the general public to maintain a reputation of responsible operators of aircraft. If a high-profile aerial performing group can thumb its nose at the premier regulating agency by ignoring a legitimate ruling, and perform and go ahead with a stunt that results in a crash and get away with it, then the general public is going to see us a nothing more than a bunch of unregulated cowboys with airplanes and will be less willing to accept us as legitimate, responsible operators.
  • Yes, for the blatant disregard of regulations after the FAA’s denial of their waiver. While we may never love everything the FAA does, if general aviation pilots start ignoring FAA regulations and decisions, the general public is going to view us as villains who have no regard for the safety, well-being or comfort of others. Then, through future regulations, we’ll slowly lose the ability to fly because they won’t want the “villains” flying above their homes doing whatever we feel like, whether or not what we’re doing is safe and legal.
  • Correct to revoke for proceeding after denial. The denial was an overreaction by the FAA.
  • Yes. Intentionally disregarding FARs despite denial of permission is clearly anti-authoritative. Revocation and re-training correct response.
  • They should have approved the original request and provided a safe area to do the maneuver.
  • Yes, but not because of risk. They were denied the exception by the FAA, and they chose to do it anyway. They knew the rule, were explicitly told not to break it, and then broke it and filmed the whole thing.
  • PIC cannot be PIC in an empty aircraft period. Was the correct action.
  • Absolutely…They actually violated the FAA waiver denial twice. They successfully completed the dual airplane transfer prior to the failed Hulu livestream posting a YouTube video of the successful stunt. This is why they felt empowered to do it again. Talk about being in the face of the FAA! They got off easy with only one year “in the bad boy corner.”
  • It ceased to be about risk when they ignored the big fat “NO” response to their waiver request. It might have long ago, but aviation today doesn’t work without rules.
  • Yes: Not the risk, the way it was done. You don’t ask for permission, get denied, and then go ahead anyways. The absolute definition of anti-authority.
  • FAA should have granted waiver or provided specific and actionable comments back in order to gain approval. Outright denial is unhelpful.
  • Yes, their planned activity was already denied and they did it anyway. This wasn’t a PIC decision made in situation responding to an unplanned crisis. Revocation is appropriate.
  • If a NOTAM had been issued to keep other aircraft clear of the stunt location; there was nothing on the ground to be endangered in a crash, and their wills were up-to-date, then the participants should have been cleared to do whatever they and their insurance company would allow.
  • Blatant violation of law, unsafe flight.
  • It has nothing to do with risk. (The risk was actually quite low to bystanders.) The problem was that the pilots knowingly and deliberately violated regulations, and the FAA can prove that they knew they were violating regulations. We can debate whether the FAA should have granted the waiver, but they didn’t and the flight happened anyway. Revocations were justified.
  • Yes, but they should be going after Red Bull and their sponsoring of risky air maneuvers.
  • Whether you agree with them or not doesn’t really matter. When the FAA refuses to grant the waiver and you do it anyway, be prepared to suffer the consequences. I’m getting a little tired of Red Bull’s dumb publicity stunts anyway.
  • Yes, because the FAA denied their exemption request, and they did the stunt anyway. Were they expecting the FAA to just look the other way? They brought down the enforcement on themselves.
  • The government is continuously overreaching on the rights of individuals. I don’t believe a permit should be required to destroy your own property in the middle of the desert. That said, if a permit was required to conduct the stunt and they were denied, the pilots were foolish to proceed. It makes me question if their intelligence is at a level necessary for them to safely be pilots.
  • We’re a bit short on accountability these days and you see the result. Yes, the FAA did the right thing.
  • Yes. Not that it was too risky. They seemed to have prepared and done extensive safety work for the stunt, but that they had applied for a waiver, but were rejected and they did it anyway.
  • FAA should have granted their exemption request.
  • Yes, but…not just because it was stupid, dangerous and wasteful. They should be banned because they were told no and then did it anyway. Permanent revocation, please.
  • The pilots were denied a permit for the stunt. They went ahead and did it anyway. They are acting like 3-year-olds. 3-year-olds shouldn’t hold a PPL.
  • No because the FAA was on notice of the event and failed to intervene at all.
  • Yes. They explicitly went ahead despite receiving an FAA order to desist.
  • Revocation for Luke, suspension for Andy. Safety was accounted for, but disregard for the rules sets a bad example.
  • No, it was over an unpopulated area with extra safety measures in place.
  • Pilots have responsibilities to look after their aircraft. The rise in public stunts of no public value, justified by personal greed brings the wrong mindset to safety in aviation.
  • Yes, to be consistent with penalties handed out to the rest of us. We may not like it, but at least the FAA is acting fairly.
  • Already NOT APPROVED by FAA. While not always a big fan of the FAA, why even ask if you were going to do it anyway?
  • Yes. Not because it was “too risky,” but because they had explicitly been denied and chose to do it anyway. There’s the axiom about forgiveness and permission; flipping the bird to a regulatory agency is a different matter.
  • No, but they felt they needed to make an example of these to stop other copycats.
  • FAA should not have denied a waiver in the first place.
  • Jail time. This YouTube crap is getting out of control.
  • Yes, it’s the law. Should you get a DUI for driving drunk?
  • Disobeying a direct denial from the FAA, regardless of risk.
  • Not only suspension but thrown in jail for a stupid stunt like that. They could have killed someone. Two idiots.
  • Yes for the pilot who applied for the exemption, no for the pilot who was lied to that the exemption was approved.
  • Yes. They willfully disregarded the waiver denial.
  • They ignored a denied exemption. What else can a regulatory agency do in that case?
  • Certificates should not have been revoked. Post-event approval should be issued.
  • Yes, they had requested a permit, it was denied. They could have tried it with more precautions such as having a passenger pilot on board in case recovery was necessary.
  • Entitled and a feeling of being above the law – should have done it in another country with permission.
  • Yes. Dumb to do it after FAA said no.
  • They mitigated risk appropriately. But the FAA was right due to their blatant disregard of their rejected petition.
  • Yes. They knew they had been denied permission to try the stunt. I don’t see the FAA had a choice. Perhaps if they believed the one that said he had not told the other then only one revocation?
  • Given the unconstitutional nature of penalties applied without due process, one can hardly cheer the FAA’s action.
  • Yes. They should have worked with FAA to get approval.
  • Barnstorming was outlawed almost 100 years ago. What happens if 16-year-olds try this with their cars?
  • Maybe the FAA should lose their rights for looking the other way with Boeing.
  • Yes, it was dumb. Stop crashing planes I’d love to have.

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  1. Yes, those pilots should have lost their tickets. There’s no excuse for what they did. A few years ago another pilot decided to drop his kid off for a sports event. By landing his airplane on a golf course across the street from said event. Having an entitled and arrogant attitude with aviation is no way to go through life.