Since I began flying I’ve noticed that the medias interpretation of aviation related incidents as extremely flawed. The basic understanding of how a passenger aircraft is operated, amongst other things, leaves a lot to be desired or just isn’t there.
Whilst some may argue that these journalists aren’t pilots and therefore wouldn’t have a clue about the intricacies of flying or being a pilot, I would argue, how can you write an article that is supposed to be informative and factually correct if you don’t understand what you are writing about? I’m no journalist as you know from reading this post or any of my others however, I wrote a number of articles whilst doing a music journalism course alongside my Music Technology studies at college and I relied on my knowledge of the subject to help me to write my articles. To ensure my articles weren’t a load of nonsense, I also researched my subject further and gave my article to people that may have more insight than myself so that they may offer me pointers.
All too often I hear comments such as, “there are reports that the co-pilot was flying” or “the pilot only had 3500 hours on type”. First of all, co-pilot is an incorrect term, there is no co-pilot on the flight deck, there are 2 roles and a number of ranks. A flight deck environment is split into Pilot Flying and Pilot Not Flying. Sometimes items to be completed, such as signing the tech log, are labelled CM1 and CM2 but there is no co-pilot. Something that may shock a few people is that the Pilot Flying and Pilot Not Flying roles are swapped nearly every flight so the person in the right hand seat may well be taking you from A to B.
Second, if the media understood how long it took to accumulate “only 3500 hours” on type they may realise it’s no insignificant feat. A pilot is only allowed to fly a maximum number of 900 hours a year but it’s a rare thing for someone to get to 900; it really depends on the airline and type of operation. Flying a maximum of 900 hours a year a pilot would need just under 4 years experience on one particular type of aeroplane.
Knowing the degree of inaccuracies when it comes to these reports has had me thinking for a while, just how accurately do they report on everything else. Outside of my profession and the subjects I’ve studied in the past, I am general Joe Public, I don’t have much knowledge on a lot of things that get reported. Were I naive enough, I would base any conclusion I may make about a subject based on the medias interpretation without giving any thought as to whether what they were reporting was 100% accurate or even the truth. We all know the media like to shine a certain light on events to bring in viewers or readers, twisting facts to make stories sound even more shocking than they may be, for example, “there are reports that the co-pilot was flying”. To tell people that the co-pilot was flying is to say that a less able pilot was at the controls and that it’s such a shocking thing that someone other than the captain (or “pilot” as the media like to say) was at the controls. Both pilots undergo 6 monthly testing and are both as capable of flying the aircraft as the other, the difference is that the captain is generally more experienced and the aircraft is technically his or hers as they have signed the documentation saying they are happy enough to accept it to fly. It’s all about ratings and they know that making a mountain out of a molehill will draw people in. This is not to say that they do this with everything, there are certainly events in the world that are absolutely shocking and terrible but to reiterate, how much of these events is told accurately or by someone who actually specialises on the topic.
There will be people out there that buy into every word that is said by the media and if they feel strongly, a negative reaction may follow based on what could possibly be over hyped and inaccurate information. I am aware that journalism is checked for factual errors however, do the people who are checking for errors even have a clue on the subject themselves? Perhaps more rules need to come into force to better regulate the news to ensure it is factual and therefore provide Joe Public, such as myself, with an educated and professional take on the days events.