Biggest Aviation Stories of 2009

by Daniel Russ on December 26, 2009

Breaking? You mean.. Broken

Breaking News? You Mean Broken News.

Hacked Drones.

From the FBI we hear that the data feeds from UAVs to troops in the field and to command centers. Special Forces have recovered laptops with days and days of recorded feeds from Predators and Reapers. The news? The data feeds were largely unencrypted.

Fumbled Terrorist Attack.

On Christmas day, a Nigerian passenger on a Northwest Airbus A330 tried to mix combustible chemicals upon landing in Detroit, set himself on fire, was subdued within seconds, and made travel even more aggravating for Americans in the coming year.

Indian Brawl.

Pilots and crew brawled on an Air India jet over labor policy dispute. Pilots put the plane on autopilot and left the cabin between Sharjah and United Arab Emirates to fight. Captain Ranbir Arora and co-pilot, Aditya Chopra, on flight IC 884 got into a full-blown brawl with two members of the cabin crew, a man and a woman.

Northwest Pilots Miss Runway by 150 Miles

“Wisconsin? Isn’t this flight supposed to be headed to Minneapolis?” Not until they were about to land did two pilots realize their mistake. They were incommunicado for a while and either were sleeping, or arguing or surfing the internet when the flight attendants had to remind them that they were bringing 144 passengers to the wrong airport.

Balloon Boy.

Let’s face it, this wasn’t really an aviation error, it was a telling indictment on our national media that could care less that a story is true or not, or how much attention it really deserves as long as it is scandalous enough to get ratings.

Sources: Mostly BBC and NYT

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Corsair8X December 28, 2009 at 1:59 pm

In regards to he last story, I’m not sure I agree. While I certainly agree that the media loves nothing better than a good scandle (except perhaps a war?) I’m not sure your criticism is fare in this case. I think the public’s fascination with this story stemmed from people’s belief that there could be someone in that thing. Once it became a scandle – media covered it but I don’t think with the same intensity – not for long anyhow.

If anything, it’s an indictment of western culture’s obsession with fame and celebrity. You see people taking decisive action to achieve fame – almost like the “get rich quick” schemes of old.

It’s possible that I’ve misinterpreted what you were trying to say in that last para. Perhaps when making a statement with regards to a story it would be beneficial to portray the opinion a little more clearly with some explanation that ties one to the other. I’ve suggested this because I am not exactly sure if what I think you were trying to say was in fact what you were trying to say.

Daniel Russ December 28, 2009 at 6:02 pm

Corsair, Always great to see you here.

Here is a clipping from Frank Rich of the New York Times. It expresses how I feel about the media and the role they played in the hoax. And wht our media sucks so badly.

“It would also be nice to think that the “balloon boy” viewers were the innocent victims of a dazzling Houdini-class feat of wizardry — a “massive fraud,” as Bill O’Reilly thundered. But even slightly jaundiced onlookers might have questioned how a balloon could waft buoyantly through the skies for hours with a 6-year-old boy hidden within its contours. That so few did is an indication of how practiced we are at suspending disbelief when watching anything labeled news, whether the subject is W.M.D.’s in Iraq or celebrity gossip in Hollywood.

“They put on a very good show for us, and we bought it,” the local sheriff, Jim Alderden, said last weekend, when he alleged that “balloon boy” was a hoax. His words could stand as the epitaph for an era.

In this case, the show wasn’t even that good. But, as usual, the news media nursed it along, enlisting as sales reps for the smoke and mirrors. While the incident unfolded, most TV anchors hyped rather than questioned the aeronautical viability of a vehicle resembling the flying saucers in Ed Wood’s camp 1950s sci-fi potboiler, “Plan 9 From Outer Space.” But no sooner had the balloon been punctured than the press was caught in another flimflam. Reuters and CNBC delivered the bombshell that the United States Chamber of Commerce had abruptly reversed its intransigent opposition to climate-change legislation. The “spokesperson” source turned out to be the invention of liberal activists who had attempted to stage a prank press conference at Washington’s National Press Club.

Next to the other hoaxes and fantasies that have been abetted by the news media in recent years, both the “balloon boy” and Chamber of Commerce ruses are benign. The Colorado balloon may have led to the rerouting of flights and the wasteful deployment of law enforcement resources. But at least it didn’t lead the country into fiasco the way George W. Bush’s flyboy spectacle on an aircraft carrier helped beguile most of the Beltway press and too much of the public into believing that the mission had been accomplished in Iraq. The Chamber of Commerce stunt was a blip of a business news hoax next to the constant parade of carnival barkers who flogged empty stocks on cable during the speculative Wall Street orgies of the dot-com and housing booms.

As “balloon boy” played out, the White House opened fire on one purveyor of fictional news, Fox News, where “tea party” protests are inflated into a national rebellion rivaling the Civil War and where Glenn Beck routinely claims Obama is perpetrating a conspiracy to bring fascism to America. But the White House’s argument is diluted by the different, if less malevolently partisan, fictions that turn up on Fox’s competitors. On CNN, for instance, Lou Dobbs provided a platform for the nuts questioning Obama’s citizenship. When an ABC News correspondent insisted that Fox was “one of our sister organizations” in an exchange with the president’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, last week, he wasn’t joking.

Richard Heene is the inevitable product of this reigning culture, where “news,” “reality” television and reality itself are hopelessly scrambled and the warp-speed imperatives of cable-Internet competition allow no time for fact checking. Norman Lear, about the only prominent American to express any empathy for little Falcon’s father, vented on The Huffington Post, calling out CNN, MSNBC, Fox, NBC, ABC and CBS alike for their role in “creating a climate that mistakes entertainment for news.” This climate, he argued, “all but seduces a Richard and Mayumi Heene into believing they are — even if what they dream up to qualify is a hoax — entitled to their 15 minutes.””

Corsair8X December 28, 2009 at 6:39 pm

While I agree with many of the thoughts expressed – in the case of ballon boy our friend “intent” comes upon the scene again. Talking head anchors are going to have a hard time applying logic that seems very certain in hindsight. I follow aviation quite a bit as you have likely imagined – and this story too. While I had doubts, without a sense if scale it’s too difficult to determine max payload. I would be interested to see his words “in the moment”.

However, it’s easy for a newspaper to be critical. They are not burdened wiu the moment-to-moment coverage that their TV counterparts are. I question his objectivity to some degree. It sounds to me like there is a bit of media war going on. Newspapers do a tread job of delivering depth – but they are for the most part delivering “yesterdays news” and that grants them incredible luxury in terms of hindsight. How much clearer our thougts and words are after several hours to collect our thoughts.

To talk about the luring in of ballon boys parents I think does a diservice as it removes from them the burden of their own accountability. While I think that our culture is placing too much emphasis on these false celebrities and on celebrity in general we cannot simply blame the system on a person’s foolish choices.

Infotainment will likely be the death of us all – but at least in the ballon boy example the media were not exactly willing participants. Now, in the rediculously cases of these damn tea parties and Joe the Plumber – well, the media does need to take a long look at themselves and see how they have had a very heavy hand in making mountains out of nothing at all, much less molehills.

Daniel Russ December 28, 2009 at 6:58 pm

Looks like in a lot of areas, we are violently agreeing.

I guess I don’t see a media war as you are suggesting. I see a media industry that substitutes lipstick and eyeshadow and shallow celebrity gossip for what I grew up with: Eric Sevaride, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, Walter Cronkite, all asking hard questions and speaking truth to power.

Who does this anymore? McClatchy? A few small newspapers trying to stay open?

Where are the American reporters in Iran during the fighting in the streets? The journalists with feet on the ground there in the middle of one of the largest revolutions in history are the tweetering Iranians themselves and the European press corps.

Newspapers hate bloggers of course. Much the same way the Plaza III steakhouse hates Lubys. Unfortunately these days the bloggers are far better journalists than the mainstream talking heads.

However it was bloggers that first broke the Abu Gharaib story, Jack Abramoff, the outing of Valerie Plame, Goldman Sachs betting on the failure of bad investment instruments that they pushed, Diebold’s unencrypted voting machines, and much much more….And frankly bloggers are the only real journalists these days because most of them work for free and scoop faster than mainstream media.

Think about the dozens of Americans killed or wounded overseas during the time that Tiger Woods scandal hit the papers. How much bandwidth did they get compared to a guy who whacks a ball into a tin cup?

I can’t fault Frank Rich for bringing in the boy’s parents. If we had a working media, the parents would never have been able to punk so many news corporations at the same time.

Again, great discussion. Tell your friends about us.

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