Yesterday, Harrison Ford was flying his small plane and accidentally landed on a taxiway instead of a runway. There was a jet there waiting to take off, and he flew over it before landing on the taxiway. This has caused a lot of people to overreact. (See here.) Here are some of the reactions:
• “He is to old to fly.” It’s remarkable how many people can’t spell “too.”
• “He is too old to fly.” Ford is 74, and one of my flight instructors is 79. This is an individual thing, and not something that should be hard and fast. I thought it was ridiculous that Captain Sullenberger had to retire just because he turned 65.
• “His reflexes are bad.” What do reflexes have to do with this incident?
• “His license needs to be yanked.” He will still be able to fly because anyone can fly an ultralight plane so long as they do it out in the country. Anyway, there’s a lot of ways pilots can be certified, and since the only problem on this flight was landing on a taxiway instead of a runway, something less drastic than yanking his license could be considered. For example, he could be prohibited from flying in and out of class B and class C airports (see here and here).
• “His license should be suspended, and he should be in jail.” This is like demanding jail time for someone who accidentally turned the wrong way onto a one-way street.
• “He could have killed all 116 passengers.” That seems unlikely. I bet if you had a hundred incidents like this, only one would involve an actual crash since any halfway decent pilot will know enough not to crash into another plane when they can just do a go-around. And even if there had been a crash, I find it hard to believe that all the passengers would be killed. That didn’t even happen in this incident, which is the deadliest crash ever and which involved two 747s. Yet, some passengers in the plane on the ground still survived. Why, then, would a little plane crashing into a giant jet inevitably cause all the passengers to die?
• “Anyone who flies a single-engined plane is delusional.” Sheesh, those are the planes in which we learn to fly!
• “He’s like JFK, Jr. and John Denver.” Not really. JFK, Jr., made a lot of really bad decisions, and Denver made a bad decision to fly some weird experimental plane. Ford’s problem was more a minor loss of situational awareness.
• “There’s a saying in aviation circles; there’s OLD pilots and there’s BOLD pilots, but there’s no OLD, BOLD pilots. I guess Ford shot down that theory.” Again, not really. He wasn’t doing anything wild and crazy, so it’s not as though he counted as a bold pilot (at least as far as this incident is concerned).
• “This is his fourth incident. If he weren’t so rich, his license would have been revoked years ago. I fly out of Santa Monica (SMO) regularly, and it is well known around the airport that he is unsafe and a “clear and present danger” to the flying and general public. Rumor has it his last BFR was totally bogus as the CFI never even bothered to fly with him and merely signed off his logbook.” Ok, someone is finally providing something like evidence.
• “As a professional pilot with over twenty thousand hours flight time I van tell you that anyone can make a mistake. That’s why I laugh at the notion of flying cars.” Very sensible. There were lots of people saying that either they had accidentally lined up with a taxiway or knew of others who had done so. I myself, while looking over to the airport, have picked out taxiways as the place to land, but fortunately I realized my error long before I actually lined up with it. But I can see how this might get as far as it did for Ford. All you have to do is imagine that before he figured out which was the actual runway, he had some distraction in the cockpit.
• “This is not the runway you’re looking for.” The best comment of all!
I have a gripe that has nothing to do with this incident and everything to do with the Internet. Why arrange comments in a format in which one must “load more comments” to see more comments? Why not just put them on pages the way a lot of sites do?