A big debate is brewing over a snippet of video that the Coast Guard shot of a small plane flying under Michigan’s famous Mackinac Bridge, and it’s highlighted a real divide between pilots and non-pilots, while highlighting the lack of understanding of the risk aviation poses to earthlings.
For starters, the video is pretty bad. It’s hard for us to tell exactly when the plane crosses under the bridge and at what altitude, though it does look like that does indeed happen.
But instead of leaving it at that, authorities are searching for the pilot at the controls that day. From the Orwellian sounding Defense Visual Information Distribution System, a federal effort to spread visual information to American military personnel and civilians alike, comes this: “In this video shot by the crew of a Coast Guard small boat in the Straits of Mackinac, the pilot of a small private plane flies under the Mackinac Bridge on June 28, 2020. The Michigan State Police and the Coast Guard Investigative Service are seeking information, images, or video from people who may have witnessed the event.”
Is it against the law to fly under a bridge? Probably. The federal regulation FAR 91.119 lays out the berth ones needs to give structures and people, and it’s more than this. The bridge itself is said to have around 200 feet of clearance under it, and that’s not enough. So it’s probably illegal.
And the authorities are apparently dead serious about catching this pilot, which they apparently can’t do on their own because, as previously mentioned, the video is really awful, so no N-number or other defining characteristics are visible.
So they’re reaching out to John and Jane Q. Public to see if they have video of the event, which, if they do, would likely be used to go after the pilot of the bridge ducking pilot. They’d also love it if anyone knew who it was, too.
And sometimes we forget how skewed a sense of the danger small planes are to the world. One commenter said it was a wonder that no one was killed—200 feet? That doesn’t take much precision. It’s a wonder anyone cares.
Yet another poster seemed pretty sure that the pilot and plane were up to no good, likely terrorism or espionage. You can’t make this stuff up.
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