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This question was prompted by this question about a structure on a mountain in Switzerland that I noticed in the review queue.

It has attracted a couple of votes to close the question as off-topic. It does turn out that the structure was not related to aviation at all, but the asker originally thought it was aviation-related, which is why they asked it here.

Someone has already answered the question, pointing out that the structure was a microwave signal reflector that is (presumably) not related to aviation.

Should we close questions as off-topic if there was reasonable cause to believe the question was actually related to aviation, but that the answer to the question shows that it was not?

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There are two ways to look at it.

If the question was closed based on the answer, it would still be a valid community decision. Being an object not related to aviation, makes it of no value to future visitors/readers. But it won't be deleted nor the reputation points taken away. And the asker's question was answered. (No harmed parties.)

The second way to look at it is how I voted to close:

Right from the get go before the answer I didn't think it's on-topic. I only voted to close – by then an answer was posted – when I had formed my logic.

Here is the question format:

  1. Is object A related to aviation?
  2. If it is, does it utilize X or Y? (Bullets and video-based system.)

The same question can be asked for literally anything. You see a weird structure on Google Earth near an airport for example, and ask (1) and (2).

While research is not required [for aviation questions], it is required to make sure (1) is on-topic before asking (2). In other words: Why single out the Aviation site for (1)? On the Skeptics site they only allow substantial claims (no claims from your buddies). We're more relaxed here; my point here is verifying the on-topic-ness can't be an on-topic question (chat can be used).


I'd like to take a moment to explain how one asker can easily turn such a question into a good one:

First, apply Occam's razor. If actual bullets are used, who is going to climb a summit each time to verify and replace the huge paper target – why not simply go somewhere more... flat. If not bullets, how is a video-based (laser) system going to account for trajectory.

When the premise seems to be sketchy, zoom out to the more generic topic . . .

. . . and casually slip in what you saw. Zooming out means asking how do modern-day pilots train to aim their bullets on ground targets (interesting topic that was once covered in a RCAF training documentary/reality show). And the answer to that question will show the kind and orientation of targets used. Slipping in the object would be, "and do they have special equipment used for mountain summit targets?" Here the Q&A will benefit a lot more people googling the topic or browsing the site.

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