FAA’s Priorities: Are Drones More Important than People?

Easter Sunday this year produced two aviation news stories in the Rocky Mountains: one was the use of a tiny drone-camera, the other was a paraglider fatality.

In Denver, two young men were flying a drone over the pro-cannabis 420 Rally, where a crowd of 80,000 people (and a cloud of smoke) was expected. The drone pilots set up atop the Civic Center roof, to remotely control their low-altitude flight. Per FAA’s regulations, the nearest real aircraft would be far higher than the nearby skyscrapers, much more than a thousand feet above the tiny drone. Nobody was hurt, but news photos show at least seven police arrived and stood around on the Civic Center roof. No tickets were issued, and the two men complied with a request to shut down and leave. The police also filed no incident report.

Meanwhile, at essentially the same time, a 31-yr-old male (who was a contestant on the TV show ‘Bachelorette’) launched his paraglider in the hills south of Salt Lake City. Witnesses saw the chute collapse while he was 10-15 feet above the ground. He was then slammed into the ground, rendered unconscious, and hospitalized. He died three days later. [article]

Which one did FAA get excited about?

The drone, of course.

Two days after the rally, FAA announced they were investigating the drone incident. FAA spokesperson Allen Kenitzer had this to say about the Denver drone story: “Anyone who wants to fly an aircraft — manned or unmanned — in U.S. airspace needs some level of authorization from the FAA.”

FAA ignored the paragliding accident, despite the fact that it was manned and produced a fatality. Contrary to Mr. Kenitzer’s statement, after decades of similar accidents, FAA still does not require any ‘level of authorization’ for a person to be killed in a paragliding accident.