Vehicle ends up in pond. Everyone gets out safely. Can you imagine this making national news if it were a car? Even a bus? Probably not. But if it happens with a jet it will be major news. Don’t believe me? Check out NBCs story recently – http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/jet-rolls-florida-pond-n90626.
Every day we fly, we are one mistake from national news.
It may seem unfair that pilots are held to a different standard than those who control other modes of transportation, but I know more than one person in my life has told me that life isn’t fair. It is a part of our profession, and it is something we need to think about every time we fly.
In this recent case, I suspect the pilot did the right thing even. It seems that he found himself high on the approach after executing a 360 turn to make spacing from another aircraft in the pattern. Being high, he got fast on the approach. Fast made him long on the touchdown. With not enough runway remaining to land and stay on the runway, he ran off the end. This was probably a safer decision than it would have been if he had tried to do a last minute go around. Running off the end of the runway going slowly instead of going faster and not getting enough speed to execute the climb out would have been much more dangerous. But that story is unlikely to get out in the news.
Airplane accidents, crashes, or even just pilot mistakes makes great news fodder. Think back to the Southwest pilots (http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/24/travel/wrong-airport-southwest/) or the Atlas pilots (http://www.aopa.org/News-and-Video/All-News/2013/November/21/Boeing-747-Dreamlifter-mistakenly-lands-at-Jabara-Airport.aspx) who landed at the wrong airports. Can you imagine there being national news coverage of a bus driver that went to the wrong address when picking up passengers? I doubt I would tune in to watch that.
It’s great media to show when pilots mess up. And the news coverage will always take advantage of it. Whether it is a big airliner that lands at the wrong airport or just a local airport that has a GA single-engine aircraft run off the runway into the ditch. And if you think you can cover it up, well, don’t. Cell phone cameras and video are everywhere. Someone will share it with the media or just on their own social media sites.
Many people in the general public still think flying is scary, dangerous, or risky. The media will always play this up when anything goes wrong. Which means, any mistakes pilots make are going to be highlighted and potentially exploited.
Yup, it sucks. But that’s life.
Every day we fly we are one mistake from infamy. Which means every day we fly we are saddled with a responsibility to always perform to the absolute best of our abilities. And if you have any doubt that your abilities won’t be up to the challenge on any given day, it is up to you to make sure you don’t.
When pilots make mistakes it is going to get noticed. Any mistakes. So we have to do everything we can to not make them. Wait, a side effect. Not only will not making mistakes avoid negative press for our community, it also makes us safer.
It may feel unfair sometimes that we are held to a higher standard that some other communities, but it’s part of our industry. The actions of every pilot on every flight affect the view of the general public on our entire community. It’s a big responsibility on our shoulders, but I think we are up to the challenge.