I work nights. Yesterday afternoon started out a little rough for me. I woke up, stumbled zombie-like out into the world, and poured myself some coffee to reestablish my baseline serum caffeine level.
Usually I start the day by reading my aviation twitter feed and AOPA eBrief over coffee. To my dismay, the twitterverse told me that one of my favorite authors, Richard Bach, had been involved in a plane crash in the San Juans up in Washington state. Apparently his airplane caught a power line on approach. Reports indicate that he might have a head injury as well as the other usual traumatic breaks and bruises.
Working in intensive care, I’ve seen my share of traumatic head injuries. Results vary widely from person to person, and I sincerely hope that Mr. Bach will be able to make a full recovery. The mind that brought forth some of my favorite aviation books, such as Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Illusions, is a treasure. Bach’s work is inspiring.
Instead of our drab slogging forth and back to the fishing boats, there’s a reason to life! We can lift ourselves out of ignorance, we can find ourselves as creatures of excellence and intelligence and skill. We can be free! We can learn to fly!
You will begin to touch heaven, Jonathan, in the moment you touch the perfect speed. And that isn’t flying a thousand miles an hour, or a million, or flying at the speed of light. Because any number is a limit, and Perfect speed, my son, is being there.
~Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull
To make my news day a little worse, an L-39 crashed and exploded at the Quad City Airshow. The pilot was killed in the crash.
I am a big fan of the L-39. It is fast and agile like a fighter jet, but it is accessible to the public. I will probably never log stick time in an F-18, but I could possibly get a few hours in an L-39. To read that one of these birds had crashed and burned (at an airshow no less) made me very sad indeed.
Crashes are an unfortunate reality of GA flying. We have a good safety record but it could be better. Some pilots who crash are simply unfortunate victims of circumstance; many more are victims of their own failure to plan, their own arrogance, or the unfortunate tendency of human beings to be human.
That said, I think we as pilots generally do a good job of looking at accidents and learning from them, rather than ignoring them or sensationalizing them. My aviation education, both self-taught and at the university, has focused a lot on human factors and the ways that people fall victim to the occasional crossed wire in that lump of gray we keep in our skulls.
We will never have an accident rate of zero, but if we focus on what we’re doing, if we strive to learn as much as we can about flying and to learn as much as we can from the mishaps of others, we can keep the rate low. And maybe we can get a lot closer to zero than we are right now.
Fly safe out there kids. Shiny side up, dirty side down.