The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

More scary things that aren't, really

The news shows were hyperventilating earlier this week about a "near miss" involving an Air Force plane carrying the First Lady and Jill Biden. Only, it wasn't a near miss. It wasn't even a loss of IFR separation (though the planes did come too close for strict wake-turbulence safety). The planes were never close enough to warrant even a stern talking-to by the FAA. No, instead, Obama's plane—a military version of a Boeing 737—came within 8 km of a landing C-17 transport, which is close enough that the air traffic controller at Andrews warned the 737's pilot of wake turbulence. I mean, it's one thing if a Cessna takes off behind a 747: that's dangerous. But a 737 landing behind a C-17 might suffer, at worst, a momentary bump.

Then, because the C-17 took its time getting off the runway, Obama's plane had to go around to prevent a loss of separation. (Ideally, you don't want to land when there's something on the runway ahead of you, particularly when that something is large enough to carry your house inside.) Ten-hour student pilots do go-arounds routinely; it's a standard procedure.

Phil Bertorelli, editor of AVWeb, does a facepalm:

I award first place to Lisa Stark, of ABC News, who consistently reports aviation stories, no matter how minor, in urgent, 72-point type. Her report on this incident, while not wildly inaccurate, lacks the balancing perspective a lay viewer could grasp if the story weren't so dumbed down. Her gatekeeping of facts proceeds from the notion that this was a dangerous situation when, in fact, is was just less than optimal. Too tight sequences get fixed every day.

As a journalist, I judge these stories on the reporter's apparent ability to listen, digest and understand technical issues related to aviation. There are exceptions, but most general assignment reporters don't do this very well for aviation stories, although not many mangle it to the extent that Lisa Stark does. She is in a league of her own.

This is just another instance of dispensing fear instead of information. Perhaps I'm cranky because Parker needed to go outside at 4:45 this morning, but this kind of story makes me crankier.

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