Some bizarre disinformation was shared during a dialog at a House Aviation Subcommittee hearing on March 9th. Click on this [link] to Watch the video (4:27).
It is a fairly classic study in how elected officials conflate different issues while grandstanding with statements that make their target audience smile, despite the fact the statements are easily shown to be flat out lies. Regardless of party, we are all so tired of the abuse of technologies to share shreds of information that deceive, leading far too many minimally informed people to dead-end and even dangerous nonfactual opinions. This pattern has become quite entrenched: screw serving those in your actual district; instead, take every opportunity to connect with an elite nation-wide group with the money to donate, if and when they feel you are a crusader for their privileges. Is it any wonder we have become so divided and uncivilized in the last decade?
In this case, a Representative from Pennsylvania was blowing dog whistles to his buddies in the aviation community, by leading a dialog that aimed to scare people into thinking small planes are crashing because leaded fuel has been banned at an airport in Santa Clara County. He alludes to a dangerous crash in July 2022, by a small plane departing Reid-Hillview Airport [KRHV] in the eastern neighborhoods of San Jose. The facts of that accident are relatively simple: the pilot had brought his aircraft in for maintenance; days later, he chose to take off with nearly zero fuel, and his engine died less than a half-mile from the runway end; he crashed (euphemistically a ‘forced landing’) between houses and a schoolyard.
The Representative, Scott Perry (R, PA), used the forum of an aviation subcommittee hearing to initiate a dialog with a guest, Mark Baker, who is the leader of a large aviation lobby, AOPA (Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association). The two are both aviation bosom buddies, as Perry flew helicopters in the Army. The pair spin the accident as a ‘mis-fueling’. Think about that: a pilot knowingly takes off with near-zero fuel, and our elected officials and lobbyists have a public discussion implying it was a fueling error? Perry goes even further to connect it to “…insane Green New Deal woke ideology…,” not once, but repeatedly.
The dialog goes on with Perry waxing about ‘Pucker Factor’ … something he surely understands, given his role in trying to overthrow the last Presidential election results. Google it, and decide for yourself, the quality (or lack thereof) of this particular Representative.
At one point, Baker replies to Perry’s query with a statement, “…but the engine came apart, uh, slightly after takeoff.” That’s not what the NTSB found, not at all. No, Mark, the engine ran out of fuel. That is a risk, enabled by any pilot who ignores a near-empty fuel tank and takes off. Gravity does not give a damn about pilot stupidity, and this guy was lucky to survive (just as residents were lucky he did not kill any others within the impact zone).
A little background:
This hearing was by the Aviation Subcommittee of the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure. The Wikipedia page for the subcommittee is not yet updated, so, if you want to investigate the Aviation Subcommittee membership and activities, you will need to use this link to the actual Congressional subcommittee webpage.
AOPA is the principal US lobbyist for general aviation pilots and small-plane owners; been around since 1939, and has been very successful maneuvering electeds to grant huge subsidies to private pilots, while also ensuring FAA serves aviation and protects pilots and airports from people. It is not a stretch to note: AOPA is the NRA for those who own or fly aircraft. And it is a fact that, the number of pilots who fly recreationally and/or solely for personal use are outnumbered roughly 1,000 to 1 by the rest of us (really… less than 0.1% of the population are pilots but not employed as pilots!). This elite group garners the privileges and protections of FAA and Congressional subsidies, to impose lead pollution, air and noise pollution, and damnably inappropriate safety risks upon the much larger civilian population.
Below is a 6-page PDF document compilation, including a transcript of the portion of the hearing (2p), a copy of the NTSB Preliminary Report for the crash (2p), and a third 2-page document, which was testimony submitted to a Part 16 process. This third document is interesting, because it was created as a witness statement but aimed at advocating against the ongoing ban on leaded fuel sales at Reid Hillview Airport. Part 16 is an administrative hearing process in which privileged members of the aviation community are empowered to voice a complaint, and FAA jumps through hoops to accommodate. This particular Part 16 filing was AOPA vs Santa Clara County Airports. Yup, Mark Baker’s AOPA, the small plane and pilot lobbyist, using Part 16 to prolong the right to pollute toxic lead while flying recreationally, because the health of kids and non-aviation residents pales next to the glory of flying. In this context, it is not surprising Baker would happily engage in lies and disinformation, when dialoging with Perry at the March 9th subcommittee hearing.