Friday, May 13, 2005

The Cessna Threat

According to an AP report, the little two-seater Cessna which caused pandemonium in Washington was lost. The two pilots, one licensed and the other a student pilot, were on their way from Pennsylvania to North Carolina. They were navigating largely by visual reference to the ground, not unusual for a minimally-equipped aircraft of this kind.

Professional pilots in the military and commercial aviation have always been wary of recreational pilots, especially those who haven't been flying for long. They get a private pilot's license with about one-fifth of the initial training hours that military pilots receive, and the quality of their flight and ground training is generally much lower. And then they're free to take to the skies, often arrogantly demanding the right (which they have, basically) to mix in with all the other aircraft in the sky. The manufacturers of small planes, private pilots' associations, and their friends in Congress wouldn't have it any other way.

I've flown in and around the Washington area many times, both as pilot of a military aircraft and as a passenger looking out the window of an airliner. There was reasonable visibility as "the little Cessna that could" came puttering in to the center of Washington, getting to within about two minutes flying time to the White House. I can visualize the view they had through their cockpit windows. If they didn't recognize downtown Washington, they're idiots. If they didn't know they had penetrated highly restricted airspace, at least the licensed pilot is incompetent and possibly criminally negligent. Add to this the fact that they apparently weren't monitoring the standard "guard" radio frequency on which numerous contact attempts were made, and they picture gets even worse.

I can't help believing there's something more to this than simply being lost. Perhaps they did it on a lark, trying to see how close they could get, maybe planning to take some snapshots to prove their derring-do. Whatever their intentions, they undoubtedly came very close to being blown out of the sky. They also caused a lot of consternation on the ground, and the response was costly. As a minimum, the licensed pilot should lose his license forever, and they should pay at least part of the cost.


Blogger Esther said...

WELL said, Tom! My friend works in the Capitol and was pretty scared by the experience. These guys, if as innocent as we're being led to believe, should lose the right to fly for being so blazingly stupid.

6:49 PM, May 13, 2005  
Anonymous Jadegold said...

What this entire affair points up is how--after a group of rank amateurs managed to plant a commercial airliner into the HQ of the world's only military superpower---unprepared this incompetent administration continues to leave the nation.

The fact is the target was id'd as a Cessna early on. The order to evacuate Govt. buildings played into the hands of a terrorist using a Cessna. Why? Because about the only weapons payload capable of being carried in a Cessna would be chemical or biological. The evacuation plan actually exposed more people to danger tham if they had all stayed put.

6:54 PM, May 13, 2005  

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