Safety.

This is my second attempt at writing this blog post due to an error with the WordPress app on iOS, which basically said “there’s an error!” and then wiped out the entry. It’s basically what happened back in the 1990s when that young girl did the Apple ad talking about the virtues of a Mac vs PC, although the iPad played the part of the PC. I hope this version is just as good.

There was an airplane crash in the Town of Westmoreland last night. The crash site is about 10 miles from the house and rather close to the airport that I call home base. I learned of the crash through messages from friends and family contacting me to make sure I was safe; we then started talking amongst our pilots group. The names of the victims have not been released at this time. Reports indicate that one person walked away from the crash with minor injuries but that two others were badly burned. They were airlifted to Syracuse (about 45 miles away).

When an airplane crash happens there are some who are quick to call into question the safety of General Aviation. Comments of “it’s too risky”, “they shouldn’t be allowed to do that”, “they’re going to hurt me or my house” come from armchair critics.

Like life in general, flying an airplane involves being safety conscious and managing the risks associated with the activity. Nothing in life is risk free. There’s some degree of risk associated with anything that we do.

As a private pilot was thoroughly trained on emergency procedures for various scenarios. During my training I had to demonstrate that I could handle an “engine out” and that I could rapidly get the airplane on the ground in the event of a fire. I had to demonstrate these things as part of the checkride where I earned my pilots’ license. During my checkride I had to demonstrate three emergency scenarios: an “engine out”, how to spiral down in case of fire or other time crucial emergency and what I would do if I lost the engine during take-off.

When I’m flying an airplane, it may look like I’m smiling and just looking around, but in reality I have always picked out an emergency landing spot, I’m constantly scanning the sky and I am constantly scanning the instruments monitoring the health of the airplane. You might be looking at the pretty fields below us, and I am too, but I know which field would be best if the airplane needed to get on the ground right away. As a pilot I try to stay three minutes and six miles ahead of the airplane. What’s going to happen in the future? Am I prepared for it?

Life doesn’t happen without risk. A couple of commenters on the television stations’ Facebook page expressed concerns about aircraft flying too low or perhaps we need to re-evaluate smaller airplanes flying in the area. Here’s a couple of hints, you can’t get up there in the air without flying low first and you can’t fly a big airplane until you’ve learned how to fly a small airplane.

I am hoping for a speedy recovery for those involved with last night’s crash. I’ll be interested to read the NTSB report to find out what happened without speculation or hysteria.

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