Clear the runway for ‘flight sharing’

Benjy (Buddy Hackett, left) gets piloting tips from Tyler (Jim Backus) as Ding (Mickey Rooney) frets in the 1963 movie “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.”

From one transportation topic to another:

Tuesday’s column delivered fresh, research-based insights about the proposed bike lane on the T. Allen Legare Jr. Bridge over the Ashley River.

Now on to a more elevated controversy:

A Wednesday front-page story reported on 1st District Rep. Mark Sanford’s worthy effort to expand “flight sharing” information.

As Washington-based Post and Courier colleague Emma Dumain wrote, Sanford “wants to require the Federal Aviation Administration to make it easier for private pilots to communicate with the public about opportunities to share flights and split costs.”

Also from our story: “Pilots flying private planes currently are allowed to post signs in pilots’ lounges to solicit passengers for flights with empty seats. But they aren’t allowed to do so using the electronic communications services. Internet-based ‘flight-sharing’ platforms — similar to car-ride business Uber — were recently shut down for noncompliance.”

Sanford’s apt assessment of that all-too-typical manifestation of ludicrously intrusive government:

“Welcome to Washington. Think about this: If I put a three-and-a-half by five (inch) card with a thumbtack up on the bulletin board, it’s totally legal and fine. But if I do it virtually, now it’s against the law.”

Think about this, too:

What if then-Gov. Sanford had taken a private flight back to Columbia from Buenos Aires on June 24, 2009, instead of traveling as a Delta passenger?

Then maybe he wouldn’t have suffered the figurative crash of his bizarre “crying in Argentina” news conference.

Maybe he could have even salvaged some of his rising-GOP-star status, which had moved assorted pundits to brand him a potential presidential contender.

Sanford did finally recover — sort of — on the political front, returning to Congress in 2013 in the same seat he held from 1995 to 2001.

And he’s still fighting the good — though usually losing — fight against fiscal and red-tape folly.

Still, that doesn’t make Sanford a lock to keep his House job. He has drawn a spirited challenge from S.C. House Rep. Jenny Horne, R-Summerville, in the June 14 primary.

The winner of that GOP race then will defeat Dimitri Cherny, the self-billed “proud progressive” and Bernie Sanders fan who is the only Democrat who filed to run for the 1st District seat, in November.

Won’t he?

Or she?

Pop test (answers at column’s end):

1) Name the last Democrat to win the 1st District seat.

2) Name the first Republican since the 19th century to win that seat.

Yes, free-market champion Sanford rates praise for advocating online access to “flight sharing” opportunities.

Then again, before going high-altitude-bargain hunting, ponder these circumstances from the 1963 cinematic romp “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”:

Melville Crump (played by Sid Caesar), desperate to beat the competition to a buried treasure, hires the pilot/owner (Ben Blue) of a rickety World War I-era biplane to take him and his wife Monica (Edie Adams) to Santa Rosita, Calif.

And Benjy Benjamin (Buddy Hackett) and Ding Bell (Mickey Rooney) hire the owner of a much more modern aircraft — drunken pilot Tyler Fitzgerald (Jim Backus) — for the same greedy purpose.

In consideration of readers who haven’t seen this grandly madcap movie, what happens next won’t be revealed here.

But this lesson from those scenes will:

Before becoming a “flight sharing” customer, make sure the plane is fully functional — and its pilot is sober.

Back to Tuesday’s column:

About a dozen readers dared to question the validity of its positive verdict on the bike-lane experiment.

Yet those conclusions were based on my exclusive, exhaustive (all the way from 10 to 10:15 a.m. Monday) investigation, which proved that cars and trucks were moving rapidly during that period, without congestion, across the bridge into downtown.

A photo of the bridge illustrated that encouraging result in the county’s ongoing trial run of closing one of the bridge’s four lanes to motor vehicles — though not opening it to cyclists, walkers or runners yet.

However, the column did contain a galling, credibility-undermining error in the paper’s print editions. It incorrectly gave, as the final answer of its pop test, “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.” The correct answer, of course, is 1985’s “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure,” which features characters from the TV series “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.”

My mortification over that blunder will long linger.

Then again, as we all — including Sanford — should know by now, anybody can make a mistake.

1) Mendel Davis, who won five straight 1st District elections and served as representative from 1971-81 before stepping down, was the last Democrat to hold that seat.

2) Tommy Hartnett, who followed Davis as our 1st District representative in 1981, was the first Republican since the 19th century to hold that seat. Hartnett won three straight congressional terms before leaving that post to make an unsuccessful 1986 run for lieutenant governor against Democrat Nick Theodore.

Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is wooten@postandcourier.com.