Seeing your world down on Earth in miniature is something we humans have enjoyed ever since the first person got to the top of something tall, looked down and said “Oooh, that’s my cave all the way down there!” But the Federal Aviation Administration says one pilot flying a US Airways passenger flight should’ve resisted that urge when he reportedly buzzed his house and a local mall at an altitude of only 500 feet.
In a probe by the FAA into the incident, officials say the pilot-in-command of a flight carrying 24 passengers and two crew members purposely flew the US Airways flight dangerously low over his house and a local mall, which was open late during the holiday season in December 2012, reports USA Today.
“My brain went into emergency/evacuation mode,” a flight attendant told FAA officials during an interview, remembering when she looked out the window and saw how low the plane was as it was heading toward the Salisbury-Ocean City: Wicomico Regional Airport in Maryland. The plane landed safely, with passengers seemingly none the wiser.
In documents uncovered by The Daily Times of Salisbury under the the Freedom of Information Act, the FAA said the plane was operated with “reckless disregard for safety … at an excessive speed and dangerously low altitude when not necessary for landing.”
It determined that the pilot’s actions “endangered the lives of your passengers, fellow crewmembers and people and property” at the mall, demonstrating that “you are unable or unwilling to comply with basic regulatory requirements.”
The pilot in question had his airline transport pilot certificate revoked under an emergency order by the FAA on June 19, 2013, with allegations that he violated federal aviation regulations, including flying an aircraft over a “congested area” below 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle.
A spokeswoman for Piedmont Airlines, which operated that flight, said that day was the last in the air for the pilot with the company, and he doesn’t work there anymore.
The plane was reportedly at about 500 feet above the mall during the move, which was much lower than the 1,500 feet his first officer said he usually pulled the move at, which even had a nickname.
He’d been on the job with Piedmont about nine months, and said “everyone knows” about the buzz move, according to his FAA interview.
“[The pilot]… likes to fly over his house on the way into Salisbury. I hear he usually does it at 1,500 feet but I hear that on the 21st he did it at around 400 feet,” he reportedly told the FAA. “Man, that’s crazy being that low, and over the mall, all those people. That’s like the busiest day of the year for shopping there.”
Crazy indeed, man.