Low-flying aircraft and technology – today’s commentary from a local MTSU professor

COMMENTARY: Low-flying aircraft, technology and the FAA. With today’s commentary, here is MTSU Professor Larry Burris…


Verbatim: “We’ve talked a lot here about the dangers inherent in technology, the Internet and computers. Loss of privacy, stolen data and fake news.

But last week I heard of an incident in another state where all these problems and concerns turned out to be beneficial for at least one person. It’s a cautionary tale of what all these technological marvels can and can’t do to and for us.

It appears a homeowner has filed a complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration about a private pilot buzzing his home less than 300 feet away. The concerned citizen even had video footage of the low-flying red and white plane landing at a local airport, making the identification almost certain.

The FAA was able to track down the alleged offending pilot, who now faces license loss and possibly job loss for flying dangerously over a home and operating an aircraft in a careless and reckless manner.

Introduce new and old technologies.

First, the aircraft in question was equipped with new technology that automatically tracks and transmits performance and flight data to multiple aircraft.

Since these reports are readily available on the Internet, some people complain about the possibility of their movements being tracked by some not-so-good people.

But by overlaying the flight data on Google’s relatively new mapping technology, the accused pilot was able to show that he had indeed flown over the house in question, but more than 700 feet away and about three hours after the video of a different and offending plane. In addition, the records show that the pilot never landed at the airport in question.

And what about the video of the truly offensive red and white plane? Well, a close examination of the photos revealed that the low-flying aircraft was a two-seater and the non-offending aircraft was a single-seater.

It is also interesting that for some reason the FAA investigator, who was subsequently reassigned, chose to ignore all relevant data in an attempt to “catch” the innocent pilot. And it might have succeeded, except for all the new, oft-maligned technology.

We’ve often said here that the problem isn’t the technology, it’s the people who use it. But every now and then the good guys win one. – I’m Larry Burris.

About Dr. Burris – Larry Burris, professor of journalism, teaches introductory and media law courses. At master’s level, he teaches quantitative research methods and media law. He holds degrees from The Ohio State University (BA Broadcast Journalism, MA Journalism), University of Oklahoma (MA Human Relations), Ohio State University (JD Journalism) and Concord Law School (JD). He has worked in print and television news and public relations and has published widely in both academic and popular publications. He has won first place in the Tennessee Associated Press radio contest nine times. Dr. Burris’s publications and presentations include studies of presidential press conferences, NASA photography, radio news, legal issues related to adolescent use of social networking sites, legal studies, and Middle Earth.

Dr. Burris has served as director of the School of Journalism, dean of the College of Mass Communication, and president of the MTSU Faculty Senate. He was appointed by Governor Phil Bredesen to serve on the Tennessee Board of Regents. He was a lieutenant colonel in the US Air Force and served on active duty in Mali, Somalia, Bosnia, Central America, Europe and the Pentagon.

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