As expected, the shit storm

After that article in the paper, I got email from a member of the club. He was rather upset that I’d presumed to speak for the club (which I hadn’t, although the article did identify me as a secretary of the club) and that I’d presumed to speak for all parties involved in the closing, citing problems that this would cause for commercial operators and airlines and the controllers themselves. I never did presume to speak for them – I was asked for my opinion as a private pilot and a user of the air traffic control facilities and the airport, and I did so. When they ask a football player for a quote about a game, do people assume he’s expressing the opinion of the team management, the other players, and the league? I don’t think so.

He expressed his upset in a hyper-agressive manner, writing to the president of the club suggesting that the club have an official policy on who can speak to the media, saying that his employer does that, and CCed to me.

Anyway, he and I went back and forth in email a few times, and I learnt a few things about commercial operations and ATC that I didn’t know before. And he was pretty convincing, making me think that while the tower closing might not hurt me at all, it might hurt other users of the airport. Maybe I would have liked to continue to the debate, but then I got an email from one of the air traffic controllers. Evidently this asshole and former friend was forwarding my email onto his air traffic controller buddies without asking my permission, probably fully anticipating them flaming my ass off.

The controller also had some good points, and again I was adjusting my viewpoint. That’s fine and dandy – I’m not a Republican, so I don’t mind changing my opinion if I get new information, and I see that as a strength not a weakness. But the unconscionable manner in which this hostile third party got my email is appalling. I told the club member that because I can’t trust him to respect my privacy, I will never be sending him any email, and to make sure I don’t do so I’m not going to read any of his email. If he has some item of club policy to discuss, he can take it up with another officer.

But like I said, there were some good points raised, and I’d like to clear the air a bit. So I wrote this letter to the editor. I wonder how much they’ll use.

In an article about the possibility of closing the Rochester control tower between midnight and 5am, I was quoted as saying “It’s not a huge deal…pilots are pretty used to flying without towers”. I just want to be perfectly clear that I was speaking only as a private pilot. As a private pilot, I don’t fly to a schedule, and if I land after midnight it’s of my own volition.

Since that article appeared, it has been rather forcefully brought to my attention that my remarks might have been taken to imply that I was speaking for commercial or charter flight pilots as well. They have schedule and regulatory issues that I don’t know anything about, and I don’t presume to speak for them. It’s possible that they would be prohibited from landing at uncontrolled airports, it’s possible that during extreme bad weather that there would be delays to their schedules. I don’t know, which is why I don’t speak for them.

It has also been brought to my attention that before I started flying here, Rochester did have a time when they were closed part time at night, but they stopped that after a couple of near misses – one that was remarkably similar to the 1996 crash in Quincy IL where two aircraft crashed because one of them didn’t use proper non-controlled airport procedures.

I’d also like to say a word for our local air traffic controllers. Rochester approach and tower controllers are the friendliest and most helpful in the north shore area. I didn’t mean any slight to their professionalism or abilities when I said that on the nights I’ve flown here they seemed “bored”.

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