Friday, August 7, 2015

A Pilots Worst Nightmare

As pilots we must manage and mitigate risk in order to fly safely. There's no way around it. Even when we do everything "right" sometimes things go wrong and problems happen. People get stuck in unusual places, planes get bent and in the worst case, people get hurt.

I don't know but I assume just about every pilot has, deep in the recesses of their mind, what are the worst possible things that can happen. I have a personal hierarchy of the worst things that can happen as a result of my flying. Here it is:

1) The absolute worst thing that can happen is injury or death of an innocent person on the ground. Someone who is just going about their day and is hurt as a result of my flying.
2) Injury or death of a passenger. Someone who entrusted their lives in my hands.
3) Injury of myself. Violating the trust my family has in me that I won't hurt myself when I fly.
4) Damage to innocent person's property.
5) Damage to airplane.

Some problems are unavoidable.  I've experienced one of those unavoidable problems and I was relieved that only the aircraft suffered minor damage. In spite of it being unavoidable, maybe because of it, it shook me for some time. Unfortunately and fortunately, most of the time accidents are the result of pilot error, which makes it even worse. Fortunately these are preventable, unfortunately, they aren't prevented all the time.

Last night I got news that a pilot I know, not well, but I know him just the same, was involved in an accident at a nearby airport. The pilot is not a new pilot, he's been flying longer than I've been alive. The accident killed a man on the ground who was going about his day job and injured both pilot and passenger. The cause of the accident is not clear at this time. However, initial reports indicate mechanical failure was not involved.

Accidents and incidents always result in my reflecting on what happened and, more importantly, what, if anything, can I do to prevent those situations in my flying. This one hits particularly hard.

My heart goes out to this innocent man who is gone, to his loved ones who had their father, son, cousin, brother, friend removed from this earth so suddenly, to the passenger and the pilot. They are living (and died) my worst nightmare.

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