Don’t Be ‘That Guy’

Flying in the Florida Keys

Flying on a gorgeous afternoon last week in the Florida Keys, I saw something that made me shake my head. From my vantage point cruising east at 1,200 feet after stopping for lunch in Key West, I spotted a tiny speck of an airplane at an altitude of maybe 50 feet buzzing cars on a bridge. It looked like a Cessna Skycatcher and, based on the aggressive maneuvers, I doubt very much that the pilot was an officer with the Florida Highway Patrol.

The episode made me think back to a time about 10 years ago when I stood in Mallory Square in Key West at sunset just as some guy showed up in his Great Lakes biplane and started doing low-level aerobatics over the water feet from the pier. I have no idea what skills he possessed. He didn't kill himself or anybody else, but nevertheless I took several steps back from the water's edge as he started his show.

I recall one time at an aviation safety seminar the question was posed, How many of you have ever been in an accident? A couple of hands were raised. The next question was, How many of you know a pilot who you think will be in an accident? Nearly every hand in the room went up.

I'm all for keeping flying fun and exciting, but common sense has to prevail. Buzzing bridges in the Keys might seem like a hoot to some, but it's just not a good idea, no matter what the FARs say. We can point to far too many accident reports as all the proof we need that what thrill seekers see as terrific fun can turn deadly in an instant.

I'm assuming the Skycatcher pilot got home safely since I didn't see any news reports to the contrary — but still, I wouldn't be surprised to find myself shaking my head again as I read the accident report he someday generates.

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