Difference between men and boys…

Published 8:44 pm Wednesday, April 15, 2009

First of all let me say that anyone working with the good doctor on Ware Island for 25 years should get along with anyone, right? We were always able to discuss any questions I might have. I have never had a problem with the toys that people have; I do have a problem as to where and how they play with them. I mean, there is lots of space up there for planes, and I know of no boater, fisherman or skier who will challenge them for the use thereof. So why do they want to play in our backyard?

A few years ago, there appeared on the scene one of the most awful airplanes you have ever seen. I’m sure you have seen it on Lake Mitchell or Lake Jordan. It was classified as an amphibious aircraft. This particular one was white with the engine behind the wing, with the prop pushing!He wanted to make certain that everyone saw him. He did more taxi-ing in congested areas than anything. Even had reports of him towing skiers! There had been charges and counter-charges involving the pilot cutting fishermen’s bank-hooks and then firing a rifle from the plane at anyone who didn’t like it!

How about the law, you ask? Obviously, the people who wrote the boating laws never dreamed that someone with a pilot license would behave in such a manner, so they did nothing to protect us from them. Besides, how are you gonna catch him in a boat? To make matters worse, the law does state, “boats must ‘give-way’ to planes landing or taxi-ing for a take off.”

Well, a group from down on Lake Jordan, where the plane was moored, finally had it up to here with this character, and they filed a complaint with FAA charging him with endangering their lives and property. We have all heard the stories of how tough they were at enforcing their regulations, right? The officer on Lake Jordan and I were called to testify. Gonna be interesting, I thought!

We all anxiously awaited the arrival of the entourage of about 12 lawyers, all dressed the same in their dark suits, not speaking and obviously not exactly impressed with the thought of having to come down and hear such charges. In case you have not experienced a federal court, everything is different from state. Of course, no one was there to represent the complainants.

The charges were read and quickly the witnesses were called and just as quick they were dismissed, when the only question the bored lawyers had was: “How are you qualified in flying this type aircraft? Any aircraft?—dismissed!” This went on for almost all the witnesses, then one very quiet and reserved gentleman was called. The one asking all the questions asked what this man had seen, some of the same, adding that he had repeatedly seen him making his approach so low that he would sometime knock the small pine tree branches off, pass too close over boats, etc. He was almost interrupted as he was asked; “Just what makes you qualified to say this was too low or dangerous?” “Well, sir,” he said, “I have had years experience in planes very similar to this one, an instructor, and all his combat missions.” “Well, sir, in your expert opinion, were these acts you observed dangerous?” “Absolutely. Without a doubt,” was his answer.

After a very short break, they returned, charging that the pilot did operate his plane in a dangerous manner—and suspended his license for 90 days! Ouch, Mr. FAA, what a slap on the wrist! The pilot showed the attitude that you would expect after hearing the finding. He was overheard laughing with his small group of friends, boasting that he knew that this was coming so his wife had been working on her license so now she can sit in the pilot’s seat.Not much of a penalty from the “big and powerful” FAA, whom we had always heard was so strict on their pilots. I left the courthouse thinking of all the dollars spent, accomplishing what? Now, when I hear a plane fly overhead, I don’t feel quite as safe!