Is Hoot Gibson a single-engine airplane expert?


I love it when people unfamiliar or inexperienced with aviation try to argue technical matters. It’s even better when the arguing is done in public.

The latest example comes courtesy of the New York Post, which ran an article detailing how lawyers for Cory Lidle’s widow, who is suing Cirrus Design in the aftermath of her husband’s crash into a Manhattan apartment building, are arguing former shuttle commander Robert “Hoot” Gibson is unqualified to appear in court as an expert witness because, “Flying an airplane and commanding a space shuttle are two very different things.”

Well, yes they are. But I seem to recall Gibson has some experience piloting terrestrial aircraft in addition to having served as a NASA astronaut. Which should come in handy, since plaintiff’s attorneys argue further that, “The space shuttle is fully automated with an autopilot, in sharp contrast to a single-engine airplane that a pilot flies manually from airport to airport.”

Of course, Lidle’s SR20 G2 likely had a functioning autopilot.

What we’d like to see in the way of an argument against allowing Gibson’s NASA experience into court is this: The only pilots who should be admitted as an expert witness in this case are those who have flown into what was essentially a box canyon. That won’t happen, of course, since few such pilots are around to tell their story.