The Lidle Crash: "Too Much Plane"?

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It was unclear who was actually flying the airplane, and who was monitoring air traffic control, though the NTSB's Hersman said Lidle had gotten his license on Feb. 9, 2006. It is standard practice in an airplane emergency for one pilot to focus on keeping the plane stable and aloft while the other pilot handles the radio and troubleshoots the emergency.

There is an aviation saying that "pilots always want to learn more about flying — but not too much in one day." That speaks to the inherent danger in being a new pilot: flying is a highly complex endeavor, and the more a pilot flies the better prepared he is when something unexpected pops up. But Lidle was a "low-time" pilot with only 95 hours of solo flying under his belt.

Ironically, the plane's unique emergency equipment was useless in this case. Each Cirrus plane has a large parachute that can be deployed to allow a plane in trouble to float safely to the ground. Several Cirrus planes and their pilots have been saved by their parachutes, and the chute apparently gave Lidle an impressive amount of confidence in his $187,000 plane. "The whole plane has a parachute on it," Lidle told the New York Times last month. "Ninety-nine percent of pilots that go up never have engine failure, and the 1 percent that do usually land it. But if you're up in the air and something goes wrong, you pull that parachute, and the whole plane goes down slowly." But with the plane flying at an altitude of under 1,100 feet amidst the buildings of New York City, it is uncertain whether a chute could have been able to help even if it was deployed. The next few days and weeks may make much more clear about just what went wrong.

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