Do What’s Right (You Can’t Go Wrong)


The temptation was to assume that balladeer Billy Joel was enforcing his star quality when news hit mainstream media that the Piano Man was fighting to keep his ability to land a helicopter at his New York home. It seemed he was yet another spoiled celebrity bothering his neighbors with frivolously obnoxious use of a helicopter on bucolic Center Island in Oyster Bay in New York.

But it turns out that Joel, who commutes to a once-a-month concert he stages at Madison Square Garden in his helicopter, is as much a victim of another obnoxious neighbor as are others in one of the priciest areas of the city.

Using the helicopter cuts his travel time from more than two hours to less than 15 minutes and the noise is brief and is over before midnight. Just down the street, however, is an apparently obnoxious character named Clive Holmes, an investment guy who apparently blasts around the island a couple of times a day in a helicopter equipped with speakers and lights and “makes a heck of a lot of noise.”

As seems to be the impulse these days in helicopter-weary New York, fed-up residents wanted a total ban on helicopters landing on the island but it would appear a more common-sense limit of 15 flights per month will be set.

Oh, wouldn’t it be nice if we could all just get along? But pilots and aircraft operators are part of that process and not just those who fly for a living. Every time we flip on the mags we should be aware that not everyone shares our delight.

From the bright lights of the Big Apple to the usually dusty roads of rural South Dakota, the parallels are easy to draw at an aviation level.

Aerial application is a vital service for this breadbasket state and the pouring rain of the last few weeks has made a lot of places a boggy mess that airplanes cannot use. That meant Isaac Wilde, pilot, maintenance man and CEO of Wilde Air Service, had to fly miles away to one of Brookings County’s few airports to reload with the fertilizer his clients need at this time of year, costing them a lot more.

He proposed landing on paved roads adjacent to the fields he was serving and County Commissioners (probably with a nudge from their constituents) saw the wisdom. It will all be done safely with flaggers and insurance in place and as is common with aviation ventures, innovation and flexibility go a long way to solving a problem.

Aviation is seemingly always under attack from somewhere because we are at times necessarily noisy and intrusive. But we also work magic when called and are welcome to help when disaster strikes or people are in peril.

Sometimes we are also unnecessarily noisy and intrusive and we can all help buff up GA’s image with some courtesy that we would expect from others if it were jet skis, loud music or garish lighting that was bugging us.

So, as we enjoy the summer flying season, resist the temptation to buzz the beach or do a dozen touch-and-goes at daybreak.

With apologies to Billy Joel, you may have the right but you may be wrong.