Thursday, February 17, 2011

With Friends Like This...

...Well, you know the rest of that old saying. Today's blog is sort of a continuation of yesterday's topic. If you recall, we were talking about a general lack of professionalism and competency in aviation which I believe can be traced in many instances back to initial training. Let's look at an oft-overlooked example of a high-profile screwup.

The "Ally"

Senator James Inhofe is back in the news because the FAA's "punishment" for a recent indiscretion has been made public. In case you're curious, he got slapped on the wrist.

Back in October, Senator Inhofe landed his twin engine Cessna, three passengers on board, on a closed runway in Port Isabel, Texas. There were construction vehicles and personnel on the runway, and it was marked as "closed" by large yellow X's as is customary.

The fact that the runway was closed was also available public through a NOTAM (notice to airmen). The Federal Aviation Regulation codified as 14 CFR 91.103 indicates that pilots must become familiar with applicable NOTAMS before flying. This would especially apply to an airport with which one is not familiar.

Senator Inhofe's reaction to all this was downright scary. "It's unfortunate, I'm sorry, but I'm not really concerned about it." And regarding checking NOTAMS, he said "people who fly a lot just don't do it."

The Policymaker

One has to wonder what shortcomings in his training may have made Inhofe think that this just wasn't much of a big deal. We also teach pilots to try and identify and correct hazardous attitudes in themselves; he certainly failed at this task. In doing so, he jeopardized the lives of his passengers and the construction personnel. He jeopardized even more, though.

As a Senator who is known to be very pro-aviation, he's given a black eye to the very field of endeavor which he fights so hard in the halls of Congress to protect and further. His attitude makes us all look like idiots and sours public opinion on pilots (if this U.S. Senator is such a cowboy, they must all be that way). When you defame a cause that you work for years to support, you're jeopardizing your own body of work. Does he not realize this?

Senator Inhofe is also a member of the very body that is considering (the Senate hasn't voted on the law yet) new regulations upon a class of professionals (airline pilots) in order to improve safety and professionalism. If he's against it, he's sure a posterchild for lack of pilot professionalism. And if he votes for it, I've got a kettle I'll introduce him to. Either way, the irony is ridiculously inescapable.

With Friends Like This...

With friends like this, who needs enemies? Keep your nose clean, Senator Inhofe. We need aviation voices in Congress who can be taken seriously.

1 comment:

  1. Whether it was his ego, poor decision making or loss of situational awareness, he should probably remain clear of the flight deck until he gets his head on straight.