New Yorker Michael Trapp nearly found out the hard way that privatization can get you killed.
Confusion by a Virginia-based controller and search operations coordinated by the U.S. Coast Guard in Cleveland are blamed in a report for delaying rescue efforts for a pilot who spent 18 hours in Lake Huron after his small plane crashed within sight of the Michigan shoreline.
The report, released this week by Huron County Sheriff Kelly Hanson, said it was close to two hours after 42-year-old Michael Trapp radioed that his two-seat Cessna was “going to be going in the drink” on July 26 that anyone was in position to begin a search.
Trapp was flying from his home in Gouverneur, N.Y., to visit relatives in Eau Claire, Wis., when the plane developed engine trouble and crashed about 105 miles northeast of Detroit. He was rescued the following day after people in a passing yacht saw him waving a sock.
Radio traffic from Trapp shows the controller was not sure if his plane was going down in Lake Huron near Bad Axe or 145 miles away in Lake Michigan near Traverse City.
Hanson wrote that Trapp believed he was speaking with someone in Lansing, Mich. But a private company contracted by the Federal Aviation Administration had consolidated the service and Trapp’s radio transmission was received in Virginia.
“Clearly the errors the controller made delayed a full-blown search,” according to the report. “Our belief is if Lansing Flight Service actually existed in our state, the controller would have been more familiar with the area and certainly wouldn’t have questioned what body of water this was occurring over.”
The private company was probably a lot cheaper, though, I suppose. It sucks when the invisible hand of the market slaps you upside the head, doesn’t it?