TANZANIANS have of late become aircraft lovers. Brands like Dreamliner, Bombardier, Airbus, ATR, are household vocabulary.
These large aircraft are now topped with drones, which can be seen hovering, taking photographs and videos in many social gatherings. Not a long time ago, drone owners were required to register them with public authorities. Failure to do that could land one into serious trouble.
Recently, a problem with the continued use of drones was pointed out, as is reported on page 3 of the Good Citizen of October 21, 2020, in a news item titled: “Growing use of drones raises concern over safety of public”.
The news item reporter quoted the President of the Tanzania Aircraft Controllers’ Association (Tacta) as saying that there was a challenge of controlling drones because drone technology was still new in Tanzania.
He made this remark at an event to celebrate the “international day of ‘the’ air traffic controllers”, held in Dar es Salaam. Properly edited, the event would be written as: “the International Day of Aircraft Controllers”. Note the use of capital letters for each key word; and the leaving out of the definite article “the”.
The official is quoted as saying that: “Tacta foresaw accidents to happen in the future as ‘it’ does in other countries, unless precautionary measures were taken”. The question here is: What does the pronoun “it” represent in the above sentence? Should “it” change into “they” to reflect the noun it is standing in for, that is, “accidents”?
Given an opportunity, I would rewrite the sentence as follows: “Tacta foresees accidents happening in Tanzania in the future as is already the case in other countries, unless precautionary measures are taken”. The official is quoted to have further said: “In other parts of the world, there have already been ‘experienced aircraft collisions’ with drones and many near-misses, raising awareness of the growing problem”.
What is an “experienced aircraft collision”? Aircraft collision is a calamitous event. If you get involved in one, you are unlikely to live to relate the experience. So, experienced aircraft collisions would be a rarity indeed. My re-write would be: “In other parts of the world, collisions between regular aircraft and drones, as well as many near-misses, have already been experienced, raising awareness of the growing problem”.
We have used the phrase “regular aircraft” because drones are aircraft as well, but have their own description. A drone is defined as: “an aircraft that does not have a pilot, but is controlled by someone on the ground, used especially for dropping bombs, for surveillance, or as a hobby”.
Illustrating reasons for his concern, the Tacta official is reported to have concluded his remarks by saying: “‘the’ incident of a drone getting ‘sacked’ into an aircraft engine was recently reported in Australia, causing threat to commercial aircraft”. “a drone ‘sacked’ into an aircraft engine”? Surely not.
Let us look at the meaning of the verb “to sack”. One meaning is to fire somebody from a job. We are possibly used to football clubs sacking their coaches (Yes, it is a coach, not a coacher). Another meaning is “to steal a lot of property from a place, destroying it” (also think of “ransack”).
It is my sincere conviction that the writer did not mean to use the verb “sack”. Instead, he must have had “suck” in mind. (Those homophones again!). To suck means to pull air or liquid somewhere. So in the above example, a drone was sucked into the engines of a regular aircraft.
Birds are many times sucked into the engines of aircraft. The sentence could be re-written as follows: “‘an’ incident of a drone getting ‘sucked’ into the engine of a regular aircraft was recently reported in Australia, indicating the growing threat to commercial aircraft”.
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