Thank goodness all the passengers on JetBlue flight 292 are all safe and sound after yesterday’s close call. But while Airbus is looking into its dodgy front wheels, our favorite vigilante media watcher Bucky Turco thinks the networks should be taking a good look at their own coverage.
As he watched the drama unfold (not unlike actual passengers on the flight!), Bucky found himself confused by conflicting reports on the air:
Paul Zahn [was] describing how the plane was dumping fuel to prepare for a crash landing. Bored with her I shot over to MSNBC where they had an expert on mentioning how this airbus cannot dump fuel. Instead they had to create drag with the wings in order to burn more fuel. For about a half hour I was changing channels and networks were literally jumping from the dumping fuel theory to the create-drag-theory to burn fuel. Here I am watching and I don’t know who to believe.
(NB MSNBC was a little closer to the actual story, and not only because they got the wing-drag theory right: according to TVNewser, not only was MSNBC the network broadcasting to the JetBlue seatback TVs, but a whole bunch of NBC Universal employees were on the flight. MSNBC: The Official Network of Watching The Plane You’re On Almost Crash).
Speaking of which, Bucky is confused about exactly how long the passengers watched their own drama unfold on the plane: “FOX originally reported the pilot shut off the screens around 5:30pm. And then Tucker Carlson even mentioned it on his program, asking an airline expert if it was smart to shut off the TV’s.”
For sober second thought and the first draft of history, Bucky went to the morning papers: “For something so simple as how long did these passengers watch their own drama unfold, I can’t get a straight answer! Was it an hour before, 4 minutes, 5 minutes, what is it?”
“Passengers even watched TV coverage aboard the plane until televisions and air conditioning were turned off about four minutes before the landing.”
“Varma, 23, and other passengers said the plane’s monitors carried live DirectTV broadcasts on the plane’s problems until just a few minutes before landing at Los Angeles International Airport.”
Moments after the plane landed, passenger Todd Schwartz called his wife, MSNBC media relations director Leslie Zeller-Schwartz, and she patched him through to anchor Allison Stewart.
As the situation unfolded, “we actually were watching MSNBC,” he said. “We have the Direct TV’s on the flight.” A few minutes before landing, they turned off the TV’s.
“…screens went blank 10 minutes before they landed.”
“We couldn’t believe the irony, that we were watching our own demise on TV — it was all too post-post-modern,” passenger Alexandra Jacobs, a journalist at the New York Observer, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
After about an hour, she said, the TVs were shut off.
“We had live coverage up until about 10 minutes before we landed,” Mr. Reinitz, 39, said. “That was the scary part, when they cut it off.”
Ten minutes, four minutes, who’s counting? Bucky, for one: “It may not be a big deal but to me accuracy in the press even for something so small is still very important and a good barometer of their accuracy.”
Here’s our guess: the “few minutes” and “four minutes” figure is probably correct; the longer figures are likely estimates in a situation where that time probably seemed like an eternity. In any case, we’re obviously just glad everyone’s okay. But if anyone has the definitive number, by all means pass it on.
p.s. Thanks to Bucky for being our eyes and ears; Fishbowl was “covering an event” which entailed having too many glasses of champagne on a too-empty stomach. Suffice it to say that we did not come home and turn on CNN. That’ll teach us!