I have covered two plane crashes this year, one on Jan. 1, and one Tuesday. Both, fortunately, had positive outcomes, since all pilots and passengers were safe. It is rare for a community of our size to have two aircraft crash in the same year.
As I pilot, I am in a position to be my newspaper’s aviation reporter. I like to imagine that I am a good pilot, but it’s easy to take that confidence and turn it into a conceit. Aviation is a fickle mistress, and every pilot from the 10-hour student to the 33,000-hour airline pilot have to respect it to remain safe.
Of concern for me in particular over the past year is that I see pilots flying far too close to the new cellular telephone tower near our home in Byng. Readers might recall that I wrote about the construction of this tower several times in the summer of 2019.
Our town is populated, and Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) are clear about that: in congested areas you must stay at least 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a 2,000-foot radius of your airplane’s position. Even if you don’t consider Byng “congested,” FARs still stipulate that you must stay 500 feet above the surface. Over open water and sparsely-populated areas, you can’t fly closer than 500 feet to any person, boat, vehicle, or structure.
In any case, I see aircraft flying quite close to the top of this cell tower. One night last week, I was carting trash down our 100-yard driveway when I heard the unmistakable sound of an aircraft engine at idle, followed by the distinct sound of a panicked full throttle, and looked up to see the lights of the aircraft pass quite close to the top of the tower.
I don’t want to sound preachy or panicky, but I also don’t want to witness an entirely avoidable tragedy, so I would remind aviators to remember, and remind other aviators, to be mindful of this and all other obstacles, and be safe.