An ANN Special Report: Since When Is The FAA Using the Media to
Do Its Dirtywork?
(Part Three of a Four Part Special Report)
An Emotionally Compelling Story... Short On Facts
Despite being a cornerstone of the
KIRO piece, Halsne admits that he didn't investigate the
aforementioned details, instead quoting Robinson's Father
heavily. "He deserved to be heard," says Halsne. That may be, but
Robinson-Senior's concerns are emotional (and should be) and are
bereft of expert factual detail. One must note that the NTSB does
not get its evidence from the families of crash victims for much
the same reason.
Worse; there is no mystery
here to anyone but a heart-broken Father--a sad situation played up
shamelessly (IMO) by KIRO. How the drop zone is responsible for a
licensed jumper's decision-making is beyond us... but the scenario
conjures up the previous tragedies that occurred when pilots of
"more means/money than skill" bought high-performance airplanes
that were more than they could handle (i.e., the "Doctor in a
Bonanza" syndrome) and subsequently became statistics. Please note
that ANN has heard numerous reports of other jumpers that allegedly
counseled Robinson to "go slow" with this canopy and to operate it
conservatively... advice that apparently was not followed... and
since Robinson was licensed, the decision to act in the manner he
did was (tragically) his right.
One of the more visually
alarming aspects of the story is a small snippet of video in which
a Twin Otter is seen, for all of a second or two, speeding past the
wing of what appears to be a Cessna 140. Halsne implies that this
is yet more evidence of a lack of safety on the part of the drop
zone and that the two aircraft passed way too close to each other.
The story sonorously intones, "We see one of Kapowsin's jump planes
nearly smashing into another occupied plane on an active runway.
The wings miss by inches."
According to the pilot of the Twin Otter, the aircraft was
LANDING, and obviously had priority. Further; he notes that the
Cessna was in an area off the runway customarily used for
staging/holding and that the claim of inches of separation is
inaccurate. Admittedly, the video perspective can be easily argued
to be quite a bit more than the scant inches claimed by Halsne and
KIRO. If there was a collision hazard here, it certainly seemed
"overstated," especially since the Twin Otter allegedly had every
right to be doing what it was doing... i.e., executing an announced
landing with an aircraft holding visibly off to the side of the
runway. The pilot notes that there is no hold line, but that the
area frequented by the Cessna is often used in the manner seen,
without hazard... several times a day.
So... what started this?
ANN talked to KIRO's
Chris Halsne at length and found him to be both personable as well
as unabashedly forthcoming about his story. Halsne claims to have
the requisite experience to do aviation stories based on his
ability to consult with a number of expert sources and the fact
that he's "done a lot of aviation stories" previously. Halsne
admitted that a very aggressive anti-drop zone personality, Jeff
Dow (who tells a compelling story now being investigated by ANN),
was heavily involved in the formulation of the story and makes no
apologies for that fact based on his amazing revelation that the
FAA was also a principal source for the report and lent it the
requisite credibility it might otherwise have lacked. As a matter
of fact, ANN got the strong impression that the FAA's involvement
was a pivotal part of the decision-making that allowed this report
Halsne claims that the FAA - specifically,
an inspector by the name of David Lehman - told him that the
Kapowsin was dangerous, that Kapowsin was under investigation, and
that violations would be filed against Kapowsin--even though the
investigation was admittedly STILL underway.
This caught our attention in a very big way. The FAA tells ANN
that they can not talk to us about the Kapowsin matter because it
is still under investigation... period.
No further comment.
We heard this from a PAO, from the head of the Seattle FSDO, and
from FAA HQ in Washington, DC. It has been our experience that this
is, indeed, the procedure mandated for FAA inspectors to follow
when an investigation is underway... and yet Halsne states that he
received specific information and conclusions from the FAA and its
inspector, Lehman, while the investigation was still under way (as
specifically admitted by Seattle FSDO Manager Samuel A. Aaron).
So... what's going on here?
Why is the FAA breaking its
Why is the FAA prejudging an investigation that it admits is NOT
And why is the FAA making inflammatory comments that obviously
damage the business and reputation of what skydiving industry
sources (without exception) indicate is one of the better DZs in
Kapowsin regulars claim that the FSDO has been gunning for the
DZ for a while... especially on the part of FAA Inspector Lehman,
who a number of people claim has openly stated that he "hates
skydivers." Normally, a claim like that has to be taken with a
grain of salt... especially from the skydiving community which has
a well-known distrust of the FAA. However; a few calls to respected
industry luminaries not only seems to confirm this but have
produced numerous cases in which Lehman appears to have "gone out
of his way," to make trouble for parachutists.
To Be Continued...