Monday, July 9, 2007

Conjuring Content Out Of Thin Air...

You'd have thought that the problem with running a newspaper would be coming up with good, original and factual content for it. Apparently it's not something they struggle with over at at the Irish Independent where a complete absence of newsworthy information can be turned into several column inches provided the author doesn't actually speak to anyone who has the slightest clue what they are talking about and chooses to ignore the one source he does go to. This story appeared in last Sunday's indo:

THE Irish Aviation Authority calls them "go arounds". But there was nothing merry about flight EI 481 when it aborted its approach to Dublin airport last Wednesday. The wheels were down, we had crossed Dublin Bay and I was watching traffic on the M50 as we prepared to land.

Then a mighty roar came from the engines and the aircraft's nose went up. Its wheels slammed shut as we flew faster and faster, banking right and disappearing back into cloud. Passengers fell silent. The first thought that crossed my mind was that it was a near miss - and I just hoped hard that there was no light aircraft or flock of birds in our exit path.

Then the pilot announced what had actually happened. A jet had been slow to clear the runway on which he was due to land.

The episode was "absolutely routine", according to the Irish Aviation Authority. Its spokeswoman thought that such evasive actions are required at Dublin about once a week but said that the IAA keeps no statistics on the total number of them. She said that both pilots and air traffic controllers are trained for them.

However, it later emerged that there were at least four such 'go arounds' at Dublin Airport in the past week alone. The IAA appeared to have no record of one of them.

Last Monday, said the IAA, a Ryanair flight had aborted its landing (sorry, 'gone around') when another aircraft that was lined up for take off developed a sudden fuel leak and was unable to depart. That same night, as Aer Lingus but not the IAA told me, its flight from Amsterdam (EI 609) 'went around' because of severe weather.

Last Wednesday, there were two 'go-arounds'. According to the IAA, an Aer Lingus pilot on flight EI 169 himself requested a 'go-around', because of the effect of wind on his approach, about two hours after the third Aer Lingus episode that has been described above.

Last Friday, Aer Lingus HQ was unaware of either of these 'go-arounds' on Wednesday.

Within a few minutes of its aborted landing, last Wednesday' flight EI 481 from Lisbon had circled over the sea and was down safely at Dublin Airport. While such episodes might be 'routine' they appear to occur more often than either the Irish Aviation Authority or airlines realise.

Source: Irish Independent, 7-Jul-07

Gosh, what a scoop! The problem is that go arounds are about as exciting as having to make multiple attempts to get into a parking space. There is no story here. None whatsoever. Now if he'd found out that there hadn't been a single 'Go Around' for weeks you'd have a major story, as safety would clearly have been compromised by people who were unwilling to exercise sound professional judgment.

Now, if the author had asked a pilot - you know, those guys with hats and small suitcases that wander around the airport - or even tried Google or Wikipedia this would have become blindingly obvious:
A go-around does not in itself constitute any sort of emergency (although it may on rare occasions be in response to an emergency). A properly executed go-around is a routine, safe and well-practiced maneuver.
But then where would his story be? The same level of diligence and fact checking was also applied to a story about last weeks Cessna Caravan Crash:
The 59-year-old pilot had in the past worked with CityJet and had flown more than 8,000 miles. He was very familiar with the Cessna.
8,000 miles? Anyone who knows anything about aviation can tell you that pilot experience is measured in hours, not miles. 8,000 hours is very experienced indeed. 8,000 miles is roughly how much ground you'd cover as a student, although it wouldn't be in a straight line. Instead if you were doing it in Ireland it would probably be spent going around in circles over Lucan. While spending 3 Euros a minute.

I know - I'm being totally unreasonable by expecting newspapers to actually provide news instead of endless fluff pieces about some woman called Katy French.

1 comment:

topgold said...

I cannot fathom why editors don't have a filofax with contact numbers for aviation experts that will respond to journos on the heels of serious mishaps. But then, maybe the Indo editors know the readership isn't interested in factual reporting.