Skip

How Life is different from Top Gun
March 2, 2008 8:52 PM   Subscribe

After taking possession of a brand spankin' new Boeing 777-300ER airliner, the pilot decided to celebrate by buzzing the airfield, landing gear retracted, at 28 feet above the ground [YouTube]. Killjoy airline executives promptly fired his ass.
posted by LarryC (47 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
This footage is kind of cool, and I think I sense this was somewhat risky... but is buzzing the airfield considered some sort of statement or shout-out?
posted by Deep Dish at 8:59 PM on March 2, 2008


Good!
posted by infinitewindow at 8:59 PM on March 2, 2008


It's important to note that he wasn't fired for doing the flyby, but for not having gotten the appropriate permission to do so beforehand.
posted by nightchrome at 9:02 PM on March 2, 2008


I'm not clear on whether he didn't seek permission from the company, or whether he didn't seek permission from traffic control. Only the second of those is dangerous (except to your job...).

Reminds me a bit of the Boeing pilot who did an unauthorized barrel roll of a 707 prototype at a city festival umptyump years ago.
posted by hattifattener at 9:10 PM on March 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


I blame video games.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:11 PM on March 2, 2008


And that rap music.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 9:12 PM on March 2, 2008


I had no idea a 757 could do this.
posted by Wolof at 9:14 PM on March 2, 2008 [4 favorites]


Killjoy airline executives who were on the plane at the time promptly fired his ass.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:18 PM on March 2, 2008 [3 favorites]


Well, his ego was writing checks his body couldn't cash. Hopefully he can get a job with a cargo airline exporting novelties from Hong Kong.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:19 PM on March 2, 2008 [13 favorites]


The chairman of Cathay Pacific and a senior director were in the cockpit of a new Boeing 777 when it swooped about 10 metres above an airport runway in a stunt that cost the pilot his job, the airline confirmed Sunday.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:20 PM on March 2, 2008


It's just a wikifact, but I hope it's true: "The legacy of the 707 barrel roll lives on: Boeing Chief Test Pilot John Cashman has stated that just before he piloted the maiden flight of the Boeing 777 on 12 June 1994, his last instructions from then-Boeing President Phil Condit were 'No rolls.'"
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 9:22 PM on March 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


Tim, I wished I could favorite that twice.

Uh, until I read the title of the page and realized this was low hanging fruit.

At least the reference to "rubber dog shit" was subtle.


still good though.
posted by subaruwrx at 9:26 PM on March 2, 2008


I wonder what the black box recording is between the pilot, owner of the airline (who was in the cockpit) and air traffic control.
posted by stbalbach at 9:31 PM on March 2, 2008


Sort of a double.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:33 PM on March 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Killjoy airline executives promptly fired his ass.

They wanted some butts!
posted by PhatLobley at 9:34 PM on March 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Assume the pilot, Cathay Pacific chairman and senior official each weighed ~90.7kg (~200 lbs), including all articles of clothing worn at the time, and allowing for a partially full stomach, and either permitting 1.25g in the pilot's mouth in chewing gum. Add that figure to the 777-300Er's empty weight of 161,120kg (353,600lbs). Figure a mean ratio of 150 knots indicated air speed (kias), with a crosswind of roughly 5 knots or less, while traversing at an altitude of roughly 8.5m (28ft).

1) Calculate the pilot's endorphin-to-adrenaline ratio during the event.

2) Calculate the expelled perspiration of the other occupants of the vehicle.

3a) Calculate the overall decibels in which the pilot may have vocally registered during the event.

3b) Calculate the total overall decibels the other occupants of the plane may have vocally registered following the event.

3c) Calculate any expelled saliva from the other occupants of the vehicle, within the period of vocal registration following the event.

posted by Smart Dalek at 9:36 PM on March 2, 2008 [4 favorites]


I wonder what the black box recording is between the pilot, owner of the airline (who was in the cockpit) and air traffic control.

Yeh, my reading of it is that he was their top pilot, and the execs were probably actually into the flyby thing, for a thrill. There's no way he could've done what he did without one of them yelling "what the fuck do you think you're doing?" before he got even close to the airstrip.

Then, the story leaked & the videos got onto YouTube & the execs had to make a sacrificial lamb out of him, to prevent Cathay Pacific looking like a cowboy outfit. Last I looked, it was right up there with Emirates as one of the best reputed airlines in the world.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:38 PM on March 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


Highway to the Danger Zone!
posted by Tube at 9:46 PM on March 2, 2008


Thanks for posting, which led me to this vid of a F-14 mass 'sayonara' flyby.
posted by panamax at 10:00 PM on March 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


MAVERICK!!!
posted by puke & cry at 10:26 PM on March 2, 2008


Oh man I love comments on YouTube. From panamax's link:
did they mean to fly in that shape???
like B-2 bombers.. looking good...They need to fly like this over Iran. To show them who is boss
posted by Jimbob at 10:32 PM on March 2, 2008 [3 favorites]


Sorry Goose, but it's time to buzz a tower.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:35 PM on March 2, 2008


He totally could have gotten lower.
posted by Camofrog at 10:35 PM on March 2, 2008


I think he would have to have been higher to go lower.
posted by WolfDaddy at 10:56 PM on March 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


Jumbo Jet limbo? Need a lift bridge.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:15 PM on March 2, 2008


Negative, Ghostrider, the pattern is full.
posted by carsonb at 12:29 AM on March 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


Then, the story leaked & the videos got onto YouTube & the execs had to make a sacrificial lamb out of him, to prevent Cathay Pacific looking like a cowboy outfit.

I agree with the inference, but to me, it's be stupid (on Cathay's part) if true. How could a buzz like that actually have been bad for Cathay's image? It's a top tier carrier and it's up their with Emirates in terms of service. With respect to safety, pretty much all the Major airlines are at 5 nines.

Cathy should have let this live on as a viral video. Think of the statements it'll send: "Look at us, our pilots are freaking skilleD! We take delivery of planes from Boeing because we can afford to lease NEW planes. We also love our fleet so much we take pride in our deliveries!"

Firing the pilot, only because they were worried about impressions is stupid. The only people who would have been worried about Cathy as a carrier because of that video would have been corporate risk managers who wouldn't want their executives taking that airline. (I'll bet you those same executives are emailing that to their Oneworld-departure-lounge mailing list though)

Of course, if the problem was not getting permissions from the control tower, then that's something different all together.
posted by phyrewerx at 12:31 AM on March 3, 2008


Is this on purpose?

From the article:
The Hong Kong carrier - which would not identify the pilot - said it was still investigating

From the picture caption on the same article:
Capt. Ian Wilkinson, who has appealed the firing,
posted by bakerybob at 12:32 AM on March 3, 2008


Did someone mention flying a plane even lower? Not entirely on topic, but damn I love this stunt: flying a plane upside down under a bridge. Now that's some dangerous flying.
posted by barnacles at 12:33 AM on March 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


It seems every British captain called Ian Wilkinson is destined to lose command of his vessel:

British captain returns home after Mediterranean mutiny

A British [ship] captain who was taken off his ship by Cyprus police after his crew refused to obey orders has spoken for the first time about his ordeal.
"I'm jolly glad to be home. I'm looking forward to Christmas and glad it's all over," Capt Ian Wilkinson, 59, told reporters after arriving at Heathrow Airport in London.

Earlier, in Larnaca, Capt Wilkinson, who lives in Chorley, Lancashire, said: "At one stage I thought I'd never see my family again. I thought I was going to be used as a hostage when I got to Cyprus.

"I did fear for my safety in the end - that's why I got off."

Police in Cyprus said they received a request from an insurance company to rescue Capt Wilkinson from the Panamanian-flagged 16,500-tonne cargo ship, the Blue Breeze, because the crew refused to obey him.

He was handed over to Cypriot police in international waters as the 23 crew and original captain of the Blue Breeze sailed on towards Syria.

Capt Wilkinson was working for a bank, which had ordered him to take the ship, which was carrying timber, to Gibraltar.

The Swiss-based Marine Risk Management Group had placed Capt Wilkinson aboard the Blue Breeze at Lagos, Nigeria, following a dispute with the ship's Syrian owners.

A Cyprus Shipping Department official said Capt Wilkinson set sail for Gibraltar but when the ship neared the peninsula, the crew mutinied. The crew set course for Syria at the other end of the Mediterranean.

Capt Wilkinson praised the actions of the Cyprus police. "I'll tell you one thing," he said. "Those Cypriot police in their boat, they are superb seamen. I take my hat off to them.

"I'm jolly glad to be home. I'm looking forward to Christmas and I'm glad it's all over. I've been eating Syrian food for three weeks and now I'm looking forward to a turkey."

posted by Devils Slide at 12:34 AM on March 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


Heh, I wrote about this several days ago.

Best quote: "But once it began circulating on the internet and Hong Kong's Civil Aviation Department got wind of it, that was the end of him."
posted by bwg at 1:33 AM on March 3, 2008


That was surreal. I think I may have seen this before though, but not from that angle. Thanks Larry.

oh, and since we're doing topgun quotes: I feel the NEED, the NEED for SPEED!
posted by hadjiboy at 4:44 AM on March 3, 2008


That was really cool to see. Some disorganized thoughts from someone who knows nothing about piloting such aircraft...
• At what point does the pilot stop relying on instruments to accurately judge the proximity of the ground?
• Or, even at a mere 28-feet above the tarmac, is the pilot totally operating according to the instuments?
• How accurate ARE those instruments, anyway?
• What are the chances of a 4 or 5-foot "oops/oh shit" margin in the instrumented altitude at such a low height?
posted by Thorzdad at 5:51 AM on March 3, 2008


Random plane linkage: landing in a storm
posted by patricio at 5:58 AM on March 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


"I had no idea a 757 could do this."

The 757 is actually a pretty agile aircraft, and I've heard others say it's somewhat overpowered. But they love it.

Some years ago when a disgruntled FedEx employee attempted to hijack the aircraft so he could crash it in a suicide run, the severely injured co-pilot reverted to his fighter pilot days and nearly barrel rolled a loaded DC-10F in an attempt to keep the hijacker off his feat.

Seems you can do quite a bit more than one would expect with commercial aircraft.

They're using a DC-10 for wildfire suppression now, too. They swooped in to dump retardant and clipped trees with the wings last year.
posted by drstein at 6:07 AM on March 3, 2008


This is exactly why I've never been able to watch Top Gun all the way through-- the whole movie is B.S. You just don't act like that in real life.
posted by Doohickie at 6:13 AM on March 3, 2008


Yet another example of discrimination against (real life actions that parallel those in a movie whose lead actor now embraces) Scientology! What's next? No more complicated high/low fives during beach volleyball games?
posted by ericbop at 7:28 AM on March 3, 2008


"This is exactly why I've never been able to watch Top Gun all the way through"

Huh. All the bad things about that movie, and this is the reason you can't watch it?

Interesting.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:02 AM on March 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


Thorzdad: Modern airliners can actually do landings in zero visibility (instruments-only all the way down). My understanding is they don't do that unless they really have to, though.
posted by hattifattener at 9:19 AM on March 3, 2008


I consider this a tempest in a teapot. The flyby was requested and granted by Paine Field tower and was considerably less risky than a normal landing.
posted by bz at 9:41 AM on March 3, 2008


• What are the chances of a 4 or 5-foot "oops/oh shit" margin in the instrumented altitude at such a low height?

Think of it this way, apart from the fact that he didn't have the landing gear down, what he was doing was probably not too far off from something he has had to do every single time he's piloted an airliner.

I suspect that if the instruments are not perfectly calibrated, that the pilots themselves are pretty adept at judging ground distance, just to know when their wheels are about to touch down when landing.
posted by quin at 9:44 AM on March 3, 2008


No, crash, it's pretty much everything that I hate about the movie. It is about as comic-bookie as movies get. I think the plot was written by a 12-year-old boy who still played with Legos and was hot for teacher.
posted by Doohickie at 9:48 AM on March 3, 2008


What are the chances of a 4 or 5-foot "oops/oh shit" margin in the instrumented altitude at such a low height?

There are two altitude sources- one is pressure altitude which is based on the the air data instruments. This is very dependent on local weather conditions (most notably atmospheric pressure) and is subject to error at low altitudes. The other is the radar altimeter which is going to be pretty much dead-nuts on with respect to where ground level is. Assuming he only did this over a known surface (the runway), it is pretty routine.

I say this as someone who has spent a few hundred hours flying jet simulators as part of a recent job, but has never flown a real aircraft.

On the other hand, there are very exacting procedures for operating aircraft whether or not passengers are involved. It isn't just getting tower approval or corporate approval, it's following a pre-approved flight plan and all that sort of thing. You just don't improvise cool stuff to impress yourself and others; that gets you fired (and would have gotten Tom Cruise court-martialed in Top Gun). When you're talking about aircraft, you just don't tempt fate.
posted by Doohickie at 9:55 AM on March 3, 2008


I think the plot was written by a 12-year-old boy who still played with Legos

You say that as if 12 year olds shouldn't play with Legos, but that is, well, incorrect.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:26 AM on March 3, 2008


At what point does the pilot stop relying on instruments to accurately judge the proximity of the ground?

It's mostly personal preference, and obviously depends on visibility conditions. Assuming you're landing, keep in mind that you've generally already set up the aircraft to be in a fairly stable descent by the time you're that close to the ground, and even if you were to not anticipate the ground at all, the aircraft would still land safely (hard, potentially with a bounce or two, but without any damage or danger). As long as you maintain your proper descent speed, and are lined up with the runway (easy to see with even a cursory glance outside, or using the right instruments) you should be fine. Also, as you get close to the ground (within a wingspan, roughly, so as much as 20 feet) the plane begins to experience "ground effect", as the wing starts compressing air against the ground, like a cushion. This gives you an extra boost of lift, which you can usually "feel", and serves as another indicator that the ground is near.

Anyway, the real reason why it isn't a big deal is because whether you flare at 1 foot or 6 feet or 20 feet is not going to make a major difference in your landing itself, as the plane will still settle onto the runway at a safe rate of descent from any height. All you need to know is where the runway threshold starts, so you can know that you're over the runway and therefore that you're not about to drop onto grass, or fence, or lake, or what-have-you. There are very accurate instruments for marking the end of the runway, and it's easy to see visually if you have that luxury.

Hope that answers some of your questions, Thorzdad.

Disclaimer: I am only a student pilot. I have certainly never flown the big iron like that. My experience is thus far limited to Cessnas and Warriors and Diamonds and the like, in Daytime Visual.
posted by cecilkorik at 10:44 PM on March 3, 2008


You just don't act like that in real life.

I was going to say, "But you want to!", but I think it's obvious now that you don't want to.
posted by betaray at 11:08 AM on March 4, 2008


Doohickie writes "I think the plot was written by a 12-year-old boy who still played with Legos and was hot for teacher"

You say that like playing with legos and being hot for teacher is a bad thing.
posted by Mitheral at 9:41 PM on March 6, 2008


« Older NIMH in iambic pentameter   |   Now it's dark. Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post