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Let's put our media to the test

1 April 2019

About a year ago, veteran "journalist" Rod Vaughan crashed a small Aeroprakt A-22 Foxbat microlight aircraft and the story made world headlines.

Although Mr Vaughan was injured, those injuries were not life-threatening so why was this "whoopsie" such a global event?

Well Mr Vaughan, without any substantiating evidence, alleged that the cause of his crash was probably a collision with a drone.

No, he hadn't seen a drone and there was no subsequent discovery of impact damage or drone fragments to be found anywhere but even months later, he remained adamant that this was a drone incident.

Naturally, the media loved this angle and played it for all it was worth. The world's media was filled with pictures of the crashed plane and the words "drone strike".

Last week, CAA released their accident report after careful investigation of the crash.

Shortly after the crash, I (little old me, the blogger - not a professional journalist any more) did some investigation to see what I could find.

As part of that investigation, I discovered that this particular make of aircraft was subject to a recall for faulty door latches (the failure of which could place significant extra stress on the windscreen). I reported this to the mainstream media here in New Zealand -- they didn't care and didn't mention it in their reports.

I also heard (through "the old-boys network") that the windscreen in that particular aircraft was in need of replacement before the crash. Once again, the mainstream NZ Media did not thing that something worthy of mention -- far preferring to focus on the sensationalist agenda of vilifying drones and using Mr Vaughan's unsubstantiated allegations as a handy weapon in that crusade.

Overseas drone-industry news publications did pick up on my findings and SUASNews published this story just a month after the crash. They even included my video in which I debunked the claims of the so-called journalist who was at the controls.

Well now the investigating has been done by CAA and here is the official word.

Cogent quotes from that report:

  • "Examination of the aircraft and searches of the area of the mine have found no evidence of a drone"
  • "Subsequent laboratory examination of recovered chards and sections from the windscreen, identified evidence of Ultra Violet (UV) degradation to the upper areas of the exterior surface (refer Appendix A). UV degradation can affect the polymer bonding properties which can result in sudden failures

Gosh, the windscreen was in need of replacement due to UV damage and that may well have weakened it to the point where any other failure (perhaps such as a door latch popping in flight) could have caused the catastrophic failure that produced the incident?

Now as I said, just like Mr Vaughan, I once was a journalist but am retired from that activity. However, *unlike* Mr Vaughan and the rest of New Zealand's highly professional mainstream media, *I* spent some time doing some basic investigative research into the matter and came up with the "faulty windscreen" element of the crash within weeks of the event.

Unlike the mainstream media (who I shared my findings with) and Mr Vaughan, I published my findings and challenged the totally unevidenced "drone strike" theory they had promoted as fact.

And there endeth the sermon.

If you had any doubt that our MSM was driven by agenda and bias, the proof is now clear for all to see.

Given the number of headlines and column-cm this story got as a "drone strike" story, I wonder if we'll see even the smallest "correction", retraction or apology by Mr Vaughan. After all, an honest media with integrity will always seek to ensure that every story is reported honestly, factually and in a balanced fashion.

Never the less, I challenge all those news publishers who carried the claim that Mr Vaughan's aircraft may have been hit by a drone to now correct that perception and publish the CAA's findings. I also call on Mr Vaughan himself to apologise to the tens of thousands of Kiwis who fly drones in a responsible and safe manner but who were effectively vilified by his baseless allegations.

Sadly, I believe we are more likely to see pigs flying than this happening.

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