Today we finally got to go for our joy flight. With the dreadful weather we’ve been having, the flight was postponed twice. The weather wasn’t clear enough to guarantee us a decent view of the Glasshouse Mountains which had been our chosen destination. But we did a repeat of the trip out to Morton Island – flying over the holiday makers on their boats and in their camping sites along the beaches.
The local Aerodromes do not have control towers and thus the pilots stay in radio contact to appraise each other of their locations and their proposed flight plans. We were heading out towards the Island when a voice on the radio said,
‘So who are you and where are you going?’
There was no response. A moment later the voice spoke again.
‘Be on the lookout for an unidentified silver aircraft flying east at 1500ft. He is not using his radio.’
For the rest of the flight (about I hour), our pilot kept a careful eye on the surrounding skies and asked us to do the same. Other pilots in the area who spotted the plane broadcast his location, and we finally spotted him on our return to Redcliffe Aerodrome, flying beneath us at about 500ft in the opposite direction.
I am stunned that a pilot would so completely abandon protocol. In our work as cleaners at the Aero Club, we know the high level of safety awareness that is passed on to the student pilots in their training courses. We’ve overheard the reprimands that follow a failure to communicate location clearly and concisely. Surely every pilot training organisation would have the same focus on safety?
I can only imagine that the rogue pilot today was displaying not a lack of knowledge and training, but a really bad attitude. Perhaps he thought that he is such a brilliant pilot that he doesn’t need to bother with using a radio. He will see any other air traffic in plenty of time to avoid a collision. He will automatically know if an approaching pilot is likely to bank left or right; to climb, or to descend. It doesn’t matter that he is flying a silver aircraft on a reasonably hazy day, and he might not be immediately visible to everyone else. Perhaps he didn’t think of the possibility that, depending on whether he is a high or a low winged aircraft, his wings might obscure his vision of what is above him, or below him.
But there will always be people like that; people who don’t feel the need to obey the rules; who think that the rules don’t actually apply to them anyway.
So today this pilot may well get away with his dangerous stunt; well unless some one reports him to the authorities that is. But no one was hurt. Everyone else carried the load of responsibility for this person. They watched out for him and reported his whereabouts. The other pilots adjusted their height and speed and direction to give him clear path and to keep their passengers safe.
And that’s the point – isn’t it! We can play the rogue and do our own thing with a total disregard for the rules – but all the while other people have to adjust their course to avert a disaster. Like it or not, our lives and our actions are intertwined with the lives and the actions of everyone else around us.
We all need to see ourselves as part of the big picture; each of us with a responsibility to adhere to the protocols that are designed to keep us all safe.
©Lyn Murphy 2011