Mix ignorance with arrogance at low altitude and the results are almost guaranteed to be spectacular. ~Bruce Landsberg
One sunny day at Winter Haven airport, my pre-flight was interrupted by the unmistakable sound of a high-performance engine.
As is my practice, I turned to look at the runway. I saw a beautiful, shiny, colorful biplane roar into the air and do a snap roll maybe a hundred feet above the runway. I took a sharp breath in and watched as the pilot recovered, then blasted into the air, rolling again as he climbed into the traffic pattern.
I’m not going to lie. Watching airplanes do well-executed, low-level aerobatics is awesome. HOWEVER, I generally prefer to watch aerobatics at air shows, where pilots have waivers and the airspace is protected and the general public expects to see it. This kind of hot-dogging in the traffic pattern is wildly inappropriate.
Most obviously, this behavior is a safety hazard. This pilot could have killed himself, or caused an incident with his extremely non-standard pattern entry. He could have collided with another airplane, especially at a busy flight-training airport.
Second, BAD PR. General aviation airports are contested enough in many communities that we don’t need to develop a reputation as a bunch of rule-breaking frat boys who try to spook the neighbors with our million-dollar toys. Low-level snap rolls are generally not a good way to make friends with the airport neighbors. Imagine the PR disaster when this hooligan plows into the airport restaurant.
Third, the impulsivity demonstrated by this act makes me wonder about the pilot. I know how hard it can be to resist the urge to be stupid, but part of being a good airman is having the ability to ignore the testosterone and behave intelligently. It’s not always easy to resist the urge to be stupid, but it behooves us all to learn how to do it. I know how tempting it must be to play with your aerobatic plane without the inconvenience of leaving the airport, but there are places you can go to do that without making an ass of the airport community.
Obviously, this is an extreme incident. This stuff doesn’t happen every day, but it doesn’t have to be this dramatic to end badly. Stupid pilot tricks come in all shapes and sizes, and none of us is perfect; but I think we can all agree to at least TRY not to be THIS imperfect.
Use your head. Be smart. Don’t get cocky, and especially don’t get cocky at low altitudes. Fly smart. Fly safe. Don’t be “that guy.”