Friday, October 13, 2006

Local Knowledge

This is the link to a story in today's New York Times about the plane crash that killed New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidel along with Tyler Stanger, his flight instructor. According to the article, practically every local aviation person interviewed said that the route they were flying over the East River is too dangerous. Not too long ago, I flew over the very area where this disaster occurred only I was in a commercial airliner way above the city at the time. Like everyone that regards New York from above I was amazed at the density of the urban landscape below. Indeed, one of the pilots interviewed for this piece referred to flying at low altitude in that environment as like unto "flying in a box canyon."

I came away with two questions after reading the piece.

One, if this planned excursion was well known to be so tricky why didn't somebody at Teterboro Airport back in New Jersey ask these guys, one a competent but inexperienced pilot and the other a man with experience albeit in the relatively open skies of California, if they really wanted to try such a ticklish route back when they filed their flight plan?

And two, what the hell is the FAA doing letting certain fixed-wing aircraft fly at low altitude over a densely populated urban area without requiring them to be in contact with air traffic controllers? You would think after 9/11 you wouldn't be allowed to do that.

And why is it that it always seems that it takes a tragedy such as this to get people to think about these issues?

OK. So that's three questions.

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