I recently read the Nov. 3, 2006 issue of General Aviation News with the article “In a class of its own” by Janice Wood about your D-JET. Although your statements in the article may be well targeted (as the D-Jet may be) at the less experienced, casual pilot who nevertheless wants to fly a jet, my 21 years as a charter pilot and 17 years and 7,800 hours as an MU-2 pilot helps me recognize most of your statements as sales hype.
Even allowing for your need to generate sales, shame on you for using scare tactics to stimulate sales. About the MU-2, you say, “A small mistake is your last mistake.” About jets able to fly at FL410, you say, “First you pass out, then you pass away.” I imagine you were biting your tongue to keep from saying “Payne Stewart,” but it wouldn’t hurt your feelings if the readers made the connection themselves.
One of the tragic MU-2 accidents in 2006 involved an MU-2 encountering a thunderstorm at FL280. My first thought upon hearing that was wondering what the pilot was doing at FL280 in an area of thunderstorms. My Lear 45 friends would climb to FL450 if need be to deal with thunderstorms. In my MU-2 Marquise, I would head for a lower altitude (terrain permitting) to go beneath and between cells, if there is room between them as indicated by my RDR 1200, WSI InFlight, StrikeFinder and eyeballs. It seems to me that your D-JETs operating at FL250 should score a bullseye when it comes to thunderstorms. Maybe those pilots could deploy the parachute during a convective upset…that should be interesting.
At the root of the MU-2’s recent publicity and political problems have been certain plaintiff’s attorneys and politicians who have been quoted in local media blaming the MU-2 for a crash within hours of such crash occurring, even though preliminary (and later final) NTSB reports suggested (and later confirmed) low altitude stall with no flaps, steep turns below Vmc, lack of training with falsification of experience, controlled flight into terrain, and encounters with severe thunderstorms as causal factors. I wouldn’t classify any of these as “a small mistake.” However, I am sure that, if and when the D-JET starts flying, such plaintiff’s attorneys would love to recall your statements that express or imply that D-JETs and their occupants are immune from accidents. I plan to pay particular attention to and maintain a record of all such statements by you and your company in the future so that such attorneys will have an easier task. It will also help such attorneys if local media are informed promptly in case one of your accident-proof aircraft does have an accident.
It might interest you to know that the phrase “spate of MU-2 crashes” that your interview inspired Ms. Wood to use was coined by a former editor of “Air Safety Week” who now works for a plaintiff’s law firm in Chicago. Such “spate” was an increase from zero MU-2 crashes between April 15, 2002 and March 11, 2004 to four in 2004, four in 2005, and three in 2006. As a fleet, these are far fewer than numbers for comparable aircraft types (in terms of passenger carrying capacity or mission types) in 2002 through 2006 inclusive.
I for one prefer the past, present and future approach of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America and Turbine Aircraft Services, who confront critics and (unfortunately, inevitable in any aircraft) accidents head-on with honest assessments, opportunities for training, product improvements, and the product support. The MU-2 is in fact one of the great aircraft ever built, for properly trained and experienced pilots.
EARLE P. MARTIN III