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Sun, Jan 07, 2007

The Aero-Dozen: Heroes And Heartbreakers In 2006, Part Two

...And Here Are The Heartbreakers

It is both the most "fun," and most difficult task, facing the ANN staff at the end of every year -- determining who, or what, did the most to promote the cause of aviation in the past 365 days... while also chastizing those who did all they could to undermine the successes the aerospace community has managed to accomplish.

Alas, 2006 saw more than its fair share of downers, aviation-wise. Sure, "stuff" happens... but a few folks seemed to go out of their way to create problems for the world of aviation. Be it ignorance, arrogance or just plain incompetence, these were the folks that made our lot a whole lot more difficult and immeasurably injured the aviation world in the past year.

Shame on them...

FAA Administrator Marion Blakey

For someone who came on the scene promising fairness and attention to all aspects of aviation, it sure seems that the FAA's Administrator, Marion Blakey, has decided to play favorites. Aviation had great expectations where Ms. Blakey was concerned... she was touted a tough but effective bureaucratic who had the right stuff to see that the FAA stayed on track toward to getting its act together and making progress toward a refined future necessary to keep up with aviation's immense progress.

It wasn't all bad for a while.. as Blakey did much, initially, to impress the aviation world overall, and was a very pleasant and positive spokesperson for the agency's many initiatives -- a number of which were met with critical approval by much of the aviation world... until last year.

The FAA and Ms. Blakey have now decided that the FAA not only has enough money to keep doing what they do (and with their usual inefficiency), but a that a complex new bureaucracy is needed to institute Draconian user fee proposals that most industry experts (outside of the airline industry) seem to think make little sense and have no credible validation. The FAA does not need a user fee funding system... it has a workable system in place that currently meets the need of all of aviation and will continue to do so for a number of years. The current user fee proposals unfairly target business and general aviation, give extraordinary power and monetary breaks to the airline industry (which seems to be dictating FAA policy on this subject, of late), and could spell doom for much of the outstanding progress made by most of the aviation industry over the last decade.

The FAA has a mandate to serve all of aviation -- not just their airline buddies... Under Ms. Blakey, the Federal Aviation Administration is threatening to become the Federal Airline Administration and leave a recovering general and business aviation community to accept that the airlines are to be the masters of the aviation world -- forcing us to accept whatever they choose to leave us. That's errant, dangerous, and unprofessional thinking... and the best reason we can think of to name FAA Administrator Marion Blakey as one of aviation's true "Heartbreakers" for 2006... we dearly hope that she has a change of heart in 2007.


Aero-Bozos Nathan Frost, Nigel Gallomore

While there were many pilots and non-pilots alike who cast their own dark shadows over aviation for 2006, these guys managed to rise above a very low crowd.

After an argument with another teen over his girlfriend, Nathan Wyatt Frost stole a feed truck in the early morning hours of January 28, and drove to the Shelbyville (TN) Airport to commandeer a Piper Cherokee (type shown above). The 16-year-old then circled over his girlfriend's home, scaring residents (but wowing police officers) with his aerial antics before finally landing in Murfreesboro and making a run for it... to a fast food restaurant, where police promptly picked him up 'to go.'

Let's face it: we're all guilty of youthful indiscretions, and we don't mean to unnecessarily damn a kid who, by all accounts, is quite remorseful for his actions. But after a year like 2005, which saw several teens pilfer airplanes and take them on joyrides -- some of which ended more successfully than others -- this was the last thing GA needed.

Nathan -- there are many, many ways to use the "I'm a pilot" factor to wow the opposite sex. This wasn't one of them.

Next up in this category is a guy who isn't even a pilot -- but he probably IS a fan of the 1992 movie "Hero." In fact, we believe Nigel Gallimore may have liked that movie so much, he attempted to cop the film's plot -- in which a seemingly nice guy takes credit for rescuing victims of a plane crash, except that person had nothing to do with it... the true "hero" preferring to stay out of the spotlight.

Gallimore, a 41-year-old window cleaner, received accolades throughout England for his tale of rescuing two men from the wreckage of a small aircraft in August 2004, just before the plane exploded in a fireball. The third passenger onboard the plane was killed. For his daring rescue,  Gallimore received several accolades... and was even rewarded with the Queen's Commendation for Bravery.

All in all, a great story... except Gallimore had nothing to do with the actual rescue. Someone did pull the two victims from the wreckage -- and that man was Mike Winstanley, a window fitter who was driving by the Alice in Wonderland amusement park when the aircraft impacted the ground at the front gate.

It was Winstanley who dove into the wreckage and rescued the two men. Gallimore was there, as well -- but he only assisted in pulling the victims across a road away from the flaming wreckage, along with two other unidentified passers-by.

That is still noble... but when the cameras arrived, Gallimore took credit for the entire rescue -- and that didn't sit well with the true hero, who revealed Gallimore for the fraud he was.

"In the heat of the moment I probably said things that didn't happen," admitted Gallimore.

Ya think?

New York Lawmakers Senator Chuck Schumer & Congressman Anthony Weiner

Talk about shooting fish in a barrel... or, well, pork in a barrel, as the case may be. New York Senator Chuck Schumer (right), and Congressman Anthony Weiner, eclipsed even Chicago Mayor Richard Daley for our top Aero-Bozo: Politician award for the year, something that is VERY tough to do. They earn the title after both rallied to paint general aviation as a threat to all civilians following the October crash into a Manhattan skyscraper that claimed New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle, and flight instructor Tyler Stanger.

While both men's efforts were, sadly, rewarded -- the FAA, responding to the empty 'terror threat' rhetoric and blatant scapegoating that spewed from both men, saddled the East River flight corridor with new restrictions -- this story is most notable for the way other pilots, and leaders of aviation's 'letter groups' responded to the blatant scapegoating and obvious grandstanding Schumer and Weiner (below) displayed. Representatives from the EAA, AOPA, NBAA, and others took to the airwaves at every opportunity to remind politicians, and the general public, that small planes pose no -- repeat zero, nada, none -- threat whatsoever.

AOPA President Phil Boyer noted that, if one followed those lawmakers' twisted logic that GA planes should be banned outright over large cities, other potential threat items should be banned as well... like as moving vans, thick clothing, and cell phones.

It's a sight to see, when logic confronts out-and-out idiocy.

We've little doubt Schumer and Weiner (below) will continue to paint GA as a threat to all mankind. Fortunately, the old axiom seems to apply here -- "Better to keep quiet and have people think you a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."

Gee, when you put it like that... keep talking, guys.


Coming Monday... ANN's Last Three Aero-Heroes Of 2006

FMI: Comments? Suggestions?


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