Friday, November 25, 2011
Friends Don't Let Friends Fly Drunk
The scenario: An Air Force pilot who's been drinking alcohol takes off on a training mission flying an attack plane with a bomb payload. Something goes wrong in flight and the pilot ejects, and the plane crashes. The Air Force fires the pilot, as you would expect any reasonable military organization to do, and files criminal charges. But this month, Chile's supreme court acquitted the pilot. The court ruled the Air Force does not specifically make drunken flying a crime. The only punishment that could be meted out in this case was just disciplinary action. The crash, which occurred in 2003, resulted in the loss of an A-36 Halcon jet. That's not a front-line warplane, but still a significant loss. For the Air Force, the incident is a black eye and the latest piece of bad news in what has been a dreary year. On Sept. 2, a C-212 transport plane carrying 21 civilians and crew members crashed off the Juan Fernandez island, killing all on board. During the subsequent recovery mission, a ground crew member was struck by a propeller blade and killed. On Nov. 9, a pilot with the Halcones acrobatic flying team was killed in a training crash.