Bad Aviation Publicity is Easy to Generate

By Robert Mark on March 18th, 2007

It was a quiet Sunday afternoon today in Chicagoland as the city  struggled to make that final leap from Winter to Spring. I was out walking the new dog when I heard what sounded like a small airplane about to connect with some serious trouble.

The engine was alternating, first high power, then low. When I finally saw the airplane, I recognized it as a Piper Pacer.

I live northeast of ORD near Lake Michigan under the veil of the Class B airspace. To those of you outside the U.S., that means this airplane  could not legally be flying much more than 1,000 feet above the ground.

But this Pacer was even lower, probably around 400 to 500 AGL. Evanston is an old Chicago neighborhood with 50-year old trees in every direction. And at low altitude, the airplane would never glide to the lakeshore.

As the airplane continued circling, my neighbor happened to walk by and saw me looking up. “What the heck is wrong with that airplane?” he asked. That’s when I realized the airplane wasn’t losing any altitude. And the funny engine noises had stopped. Then the engine wound up and down again and the airplane began to descend.

No doubt about it, I thought. This pilot was in trouble as the Pacer disappeared behind the trees. My neighbor grabbed his cell phone to call the cops as we both watched the airplane appear again overhead now sounding fine.

That’s when I realized the pilot wasn’t really in trouble. This pilot was just buzzing a house in our neighborhood.

My neighbor looked at me. “This can’t be legal, is it?”

“No,” I said. “The guy’s just being an idiot.”

Then, almost as quickly as I’d noticed the airplane, it headed east toward the lakeshore and disappeared behind the trees.

My neighbor shook his head and  asked, “Could that guy have glided to the lake if his engine had really quit?”

I shook my head no. “They would have had a pretty tough time landing on a street bordered by big trees too.”

So I just thought I’d say thanks to that Pacer pilot for undoing in about three minutes the hard work the rest of us local pilots have spent years trying to undo in meetings with often angry airport neighbors.

What is it comedian Jeff Foxworthy says … “You can’t fix stupid”

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3 Responses to “Bad Aviation Publicity is Easy to Generate”

  1. Trev Morson Says:

    The Pacer story was excellent!!!

    (From ‘The DC-3 Hangar”

  2. Ryan Keough Says:

    Actually, Ron White said “You can’t fix stupid”… Foxworthy did the “You might be a redneck if…” jokes… for example, “if you need an airplane to find a certain car part from the pile in your back yard, you might be a redneck”.

    You can only tie the low altitude record, and if you break it… the news trucks will be there for a completely different reason.

  3. Robert Mark Says:

    Ron White huh?

    Makes me look a bit comedy-challenged I guess.

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