- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 14, 2001

Noble: Navy Lt. Shane Osborn, who piloted his crippled EP-3 reconnaissance plane to a safe landing after a Chinese fighter pilot collided with it.

If Lt. Osborn didn´t hit the "fasten seatbelts" sign as his plane plunged thousands of feet towards the Pacific in what one crew member characterized as a "screaming dive," then it was probably the only error he made. He first had to wrest control of the spinning, twisting aircraft, an action which, he told his mother, took "every bit of strength." Lt. Osborn then had to make the hard decision to attempt to land at Hainan and guide his faltering flight 70 miles to a safe landing on the territory of a country that didn´t want him.

Rear Adm. Craig Quigley called it "a spectacular feat of airmanship." In a telephone call to Lt. Osborn, President Bush said, "As an old F-102 pilot, let me tell you, Shane, you did a heck of a job bringing that aircraft down. You made your country proud." At a Rose Garden statement saluting the good news of the crew´s return, Mr. Bush added, "I know I speak for all Americans in saluting their courage and the extraordinary skill of the pilot, Navy Lt. Navy Lt. Osborn, who guided the severely damaged aircraft to an emergency landing that saved 24 lives."

There is little doubt that Lt. Osborn has a great future ahead in aviation. For superhuman flying under superstressful circumstances, Lt. Osborn is the noble of the week.

Knave: Wang Wei, the Chinese pilot who endangered the lives of the Americans aboard Lt. Osborn´s plane in what became suicidal daring.

Normally, it augurs ill to speak of the dead, but perhaps an exception should be made. The miracle of this Chinese contretemps was that Mr. Wei did not pull 24 Americans into the sea with him. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said, "The F-8 pilot clearly put at risk the lives of 24 Americans."

Those Americans had no reason to be at risk while on an unescorted reconnaissance flight over international waters, they were flying straight and level on autopilot. Mr. Rumsfeld claimed, "It is clear that the pilot intended to harass the crew."

The harassment came in the form of several high-speed passes on the U.S. plane, in which Mr. Wei came between three and five feet of its left wing. According to reports, Mr. Wei approached from a 45-degree angle on his last pass.

For his superhuman ego, and superhuman stupidity, Mr. Wei is the knave of the week.

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