Friday, July 23, 2010

Aviation Experts, Stupid and Brilliant ...

The ego wars on AVSIG are rare, and almost always over high-stakes issues like Bonanza flap settings and whether or not it’s OK to use a hand-held GPS to navigate around a TFR in D.C. (it’s not -- turns out a hand-held GPS can’t be used concurrently with more than two acronyms, GPS inclusive, in any flight scenario ... FAR 7689.456.76BS).  

But should these arguments reach the last pathetic gasps that some web discussions do, knock-down, drag-out fights over grand subjects on AVSIG are always found to be no different than disagreements over Ford vs. Chevy (Chevy.  Fords smell funny) or Angelina Jolie vs. Jennifer Aniston (neither: it’s always Mary Ann, silly) on other forums.  In the end they are propped up to their last withering stands by at least one fragile but proud soul who can’t tell gray from black or white.

A few years back on AVSIG we witnessed one of those petty little ego dust-ups.  John Wiley, an AVSIG member most famous for using an instrument panel with all kinds of dials and switches on it as his avatar (oh, and plus being a retired airiline pilot who flew some fun stuff in Southeast Asia back when Wavy Gravy was keeping unruly flower children in line with seltzer bottles and cream pies) had the nerve to show up on CNN to help Miles O’Brien discuss an airliner accident.

Within hours, another AVSIG member who once had a gig doing aviation commentary for another network showed up on the forum to lambast Mr. Wiley for taking food from his mouth: A retired airline pilot with a pension taking aviation commentary work from a working journalist.  

Sigizens couldn’t help but spend a few days asking different versions of the question “Really?” ... keeping everything within our strict posting rules until the conversation somehow devolved into a discussion about underwear.

That was supposed to be the end of that.  Just more warped human logic on display for everyone out there on the internets, courtesy of the fully-voluntary submission of its producer, same as with this blog.  

But now some airline pilot who blogs for Salon is also taking shots at Wiley.  Patrick Smith, who writes the Ask the Pilot blog for magazine, recently whined that the Associated Press contacted Wiley instead of him for insight on this week’s United Airlines turbulence incident between Dulles and Los Angeles.  He went on to call Wiley’s commentary “stupid” and to suggest he might have supplied smarter insights had the AP only had the wisdom to contact him.

This humble blogger wants to chalk up this apparent smear to misunderstood English humor, since this Patrick Smith writes like an Englishman, using the word, “Bloody” and claiming to still jot down bursts of creative brilliance on hotel stationary ... though it’s possible he’s just some Yank who’s gone Madonna, idiom-wise, after attending Farnsborough.

See, English humor is very sophisticated, and people in other parts of the world just don’t get it.  When Benny Hill parades around in a waitress uniform sporting volleyball falsies and smacks a customer who gets fresh, causing the patron to go tumbling out the coffee shop entrance and into the street at high speed to the accompaniment of popcorn-popping sounds, it’s always funnier than we think it is.

“Stupid” could be an affectionately cute term in an  English humor sort of way.

But what if in-fact this is another real case of sour grapes aviation-commentator-on-aviation-commentator violence?  

And Wiley?  Again?

It takes some kind of troublemaker to end up in all these dust-ups, regardless of the apparent provocateur, right?

There’s a bigger question begged by all of these complaints of retired airline pilots taking all the commentary glory from working aviation journalists.

Just what is an “aviation journalist” nowadays?  

A print stalwart like David Learmount?  Any old web punk with a blog?

It’s a tough distinction , as serious journalists of all stripes have been taking it on the chin ever since those pouty-lipped silicone babes started showing up on the local Action News reporting overturned tankers spewing pneumonia all over the roadways.  Ted Koppel has to bristle at sharing the camera with some of these clowns ... so why wouldn’t a real aviation journalist get ticked off at being usurped by some great pretender out there ... by some guy with decades as a professional pilot and instructor and two Aviation Journalist of the Year awards?

Still, the biggest question of all weighing on me this morning is why on earth a hairstyling magazine is publishing an aviation blog.  (Please save your angry comments about the author thinking Salon is “a hairstyling magazine.”  I happen to know salons give massages and mud baths too -- pickle slices at the classier places).


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