Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Drones Drawing Fire

I have a secret. A few weeks ago I wrote about something I felt EAA and AOPA are doing right. It’s true. I wanted to remind people that they have petitioned the FAA to remove the medical requirement (with some restrictions) from the basic pilot license and that each and every pilot should get online and add their names to it.
Admittedly, it was hard to discuss this petition without suggesting the medical requirement removal should have been accomplished decades ago. Yet, since we now have some historical data from the Sport Pilot program to support this petition, I felt it was best to focus on the positive. Let’s get this done.
What did I do with this post? Well, I posted it, edited it, re-edited it, added some upbeat photos, and scheduled it for publishing. Then a new subject came on scene; drones.
Despite AOPA’s claims of having the brightest minds lobbying for aviation and EAA’s claims of a strategic role in the overall lobby for aviation advancement, I have to wonder where they’ve been on this. Yeah sure, AOPA has produced a few eBriefs with discussions of the subject but where are they on this issue? Do you think they’re on top of it?
I have something else to admit; when the FAA decided to allow expanded drone use over the USA, I quietly wondered how long it would be until the first person shot one down. Then with great relief, I began to see I wasn’t the only person thinking this. First, Charles Krauthammer made his now famous quote that the “first American to shoot down a domestic spy drone will become a folk hero”. Then others began to say the same thing. Clearly, no person who understands liberty believes drones over their home is a good idea. Do you see where I am going with this? Neither AOPA or EAA does.
Drones over our homes are a triple whammy for aviators. Sure, EAA and AOPA have both paid lip service to the notion of liberty and airspace issues. What they haven’t covered though is the third issue; the physical threat from the ground posed to aircraft.
How do drones put aircraft and pilots in danger? Well, how many non-aviators do you know that can look to the sky and tell the difference between aircraft types? For that matter, how many pilots can do so? Now ask yourself how capable the average citizen is of judging the height of a flying machine? Now are you starting to see where I’m going with this?
How long will it be before every drone in the air is associated with every plane in the sky? This is potentially the worst PR disaster for aviation to ever come down the road and yet EAA and AOPA are content complaining about airspace. Although it hasn’t happened yet, ask yourself how long it will take for people to start associating every over-flight of their home with an invasion of privacy; how long until someone takes that shot?
Certainly, I hope I am wrong but this already occasionally happens without the issue of drones to stir it up. I also hope that AOPA and EAA are fighting the good fight. Unfortunately, knowing EAA’s admittedly cozy relationship with the FAA and the fact that Craig Fuller was (is) fully entrenched in the political establish during the Bush years when they accelerated the trend of government taking every liberty it could in the name of security, I know they are not. A false friend is far more dangerous than an enemy. At least you know where you stand with the enemy.

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