Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Flouting Safety - Darwinian Selection

"He was literally using it just to fly himself to the cottage, fly himself to his friends' houses. My main concern is that, if you lose your driver's license, you can still fly around in a personal aircraft."
"I live on a lake; I don't know how many people are flying up to the cottage on the weekend, landing their helicopter, landing their plane. ...I don't know how many commercial pilots there are who have lost their driver's license."
Brad Harris, York Region concerned citizen

On April 23 of this year, an R44 II helicopter registered to a numbered company owned by Bruce Lakie was involved in a serious crash near Queensville, Ont.
Handout   On April 23 of this year, an R44 II helicopter registered to a numbered company owned by Bruce Lakie was involved in a serious crash near Queensville, Ont.

Mr. Harris is concerned. He is familiar with the man in question, Bruce Lakie, a man who lost his driver's license because of an impaired driving conviction, but still went on to pilot his personal private helicopter. Mr. Lakie was in fact, not afoul of the law in this matter. His driving license taken away, he no longer drove his truck. But evidently there is nothing in Canadian law that would interfere with piloting a personal aircraft; nothing to link his flying license with his driving license.

Who knew? You can be arrested for the criminal act of drunk driving, but nothing will associate that act with piloting a plane? Would a mature adult, cognizant of his obligations to society as well as to himself and his family, restrain himself from flying an aircraft while under the influence, but not while driving a motor vehicle? The mind boggles.

"Currently there are no formal mechanisms in place linking a provincial/territorial driver's license to the pilot license as a driver's license is not a prerequisite for a Canadian pilot license", according to Transport Canada spokesperson Brooke Williams. The issue simply appears to be one that hasn't previously been of any concern and thus, it hasn't been addressed, as it might have been, and most certainly should have been.

If a substance abuse problem compromises a motorist's ability to be aware and drive competently, it most certainly would do the same to a pilot's competency in manoeuvring and flying an aircraft. He would constitute a potential threat in many ways. Unless there arises a suspicion that a pilot would not pass a medical fitness assessment and an airport security clearance would be denied him, it's doubtful the matter would even come up, unless an accident occurred directly linking the pilot to alcohol abuse.

It's a different story in the United States, where pilots convicted of "alcohol-related or administrative action" are required by law to contact the Federal Aviation Administration within 60 days, to inform them of the situation. Mr. Lakie's conviction of impaired driving and dangerous driving should have served to restrict him from driving any vehicle, including aircraft and for very obvious reasons. "Mr. Lakie's manner of driving was a significant departure from the standard of a reasonably prudent person", wrote the trial judge who convicted him.

During the period of time when this man's driving license was suspended he continued to pilot his Robinson R44 II helicopter. On April 23 of this year an R44 II helicopter registered to a numbered company owned by Mr. Lakie happened to be involved in a serious crash near Queensville, Ontario. The Transport Canada incident report indicated that the aircraft had taken off from a private residence in Queensville, and "during a landing in a marshy area ... a skid cut in the soft earth and the helicopter dynamically rolled over."

Fortunately there were no injuries. This time around. What if the helicopter had landed on a highway where it 'dynamically rolled over' a few cars innocently driving their occupants to a destination other than a cemetery?

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