Wednesday, October 12, 2005

But It Could Have Been Me

Sorry for the long gap in posts. Someone asked me about my silence and I admitted that every time I went to blog I looked at the last entry and didn't feel like blogging anymore. Why does this death bother me more than the last aviation funeral I attended?

Partly it's my ability to identify with Nancy Allan more than with a male pilot that is affecting me. If you aren't a white male in the prime of your life, you may have discovered the importance of role models: the more similar someone is to you, the more you realize that you could achieve what they have achieved. Or that what happened to them could happen to you. Before her death in Winnipeg last week, Nancy logged about the same number of flying hours as I have. Some of her background is similar to mine. Someone even e-mailed me asking me to assure them it wasn't me.

Sometimes when someone dies, we use a little of the Right Stuff tactic. You think to yourself, "the company he flew for had poor maintenance," or "I've seen him do a skimpy walkaround," or "they had some pretty dangerous operational procedures." You come up with just the right balance so that you aren't mentally slagging the other pilot, but you maintain a reason why it can't happen to you. Not here. Morningstar is an excellent company. The Caravan is known to be not-so-good in ice, but it's certified and there was no reason I wouldn't have done the same scheduled take-off if it had been mine. The airplane she regularly flew was out getting painted. Yeah, she was covering for someone else who was on vacation: wasn't even supposed to be in that horrible Winnipeg weather.

I can explain that anyone could be killed crossing the street, but you see, pilots and elementary school teachers and computer programmers and legal secretaries all cross the street. I told a friend once in all seriousness that "it's not that that many pilots are killed at work, it's just that we all know one another and there's such a network of communication, and when we die at work it makes the news, so it seems like more." He nodded sagely, and managed to pretend that it was probable that Canadian office workers die in gruesome filing cabinet and stapler-related accidents every month, but that the media just doesn't report it, because it's not glamourous like an airplane crash.

So I have to resort back to knowing that we all die in the end, thus I might as well do what I like doing in the meantime.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I know your feeling -- it's like someone suddenly pulled a chair out from under you.

Not too long after I bought my Warrior and joined the Piper pilots' list, one of the list members died in a crash, with 4 out of 7 people in his family. For a long time I agonized over why flying small planes was a good idea. I haven't managed to come up with any good answers, and I still agonize a lot, but I keep flying anyway.

dibabear said...

It definitely is that the press brings it to you that you notice it more. Seriously.

Carpal tunnel is probably the most dangerous part of my job and yet, because I travel a lot (planes, trains and automobiles) my odds are about the same as a private pilot (which is the same as a auto driver).

If tomorrow I get splattered on the highway heading to a meeting it might make the local news. If, however, I take off in my club's 172 and crash it'll be national news, especially if someone is with me. Go figure.