Below are links to a number of stories I have written on the topic of risk management. They contain the names and stories of men I knew, errors people made, and an indication of the costs. Note that this isn’t second hand tales, or mystery email names, There were real people I knew, and in some cases loved.
Aviation magazines are full of stories about accidents, but two things are different here. Almost never, does a magazine writer have the task of speaking of a person he knew. This distance doesn’t assure objectivity, it just allows condemnation without consideration. Second, I am one of very few business owners that ever makes comments about accidents. If you want people to blindly buy things, everyone knows you don’t talk about dead people. I know this too, but my goal isn’t just to sell things, it is to share the things that others before me took the time to teach me.
Above, a 2006 photo of our friends Bob and Sarah Bean. I can say without the slightest hesitation they are the finest human beings I ever met in aviation. Most people cherish others attached to them by blood, experience or common thought. I shared none of these with Bob; I loved him solely because he was the human embodiment of “Love thy neighbor.” It has been a number of years, but the loss of Bob and Sarah is still a spear in the heart that makes all other cuts seem small.
If you are new to flying please read this first:
Also, please read and understand this: Comments on aircraft accidents
Below are the titles in color, and a brief segment of each story to indicate the contents. You can click on any color title and read the full original story:
Risk Management, Factor #1, Judgement. “Judgement is the vital element, and without it, the other factors, experience, education and all the rest, don’t add up to any protection.”
Risk Management, Experience vs Judgement. “I want to show people that when I am writing a simple sentence like “two personal friends of mine with more than 25,000 hours each” I am not kidding, and the point I am making isn’t some abstract Flying magazine platitude”
Risk Management – Human factors ” The evidence that fools present for the existence of luck is vague and anticdototal at best. Hard, proven and factual evidence for the existence
of Physics, Gravity and Chemistry can be found at any crash site.”
Risk Management, Wrong airframe, Wrong experience level. “when a guy is new, he makes a critical decision, before he has much experience or good advice to base it on. This choice is which airframe to build.”
Risk Management, Judgement Error, money in the wrong place. “There are many people who are great people who don’t make good decisions around planes. There are also people who are first class A-holes who exercise good judgment. Like it or not, the later live a lot longer.”
Effective Risk Management – 2,903 words “This was the first time I can clearly say I understood the cost of keeping your mouth shut. This was the first step to me becoming the kind of “Bastard” who publicly points out people doing dangerous things.”
“If only someone had told him……” “they chose to ignore the warnings or discount them for reasons that frequently seem hard to remember after the damage is done. It is not the lack of information, but the willful choice to ignore it that is at the root of trouble.”
Expert Witnesses in civil Aviation trials. “The important point that I would like traditional homebuilders to understand and take away is simple. All three of these men wrote books that purport to be grave warnings about terrible flaws in aircraft designs in aviation. I cannot comment on how strongly any of these men felt about these topics, but I will tell you that each of these men aggressively pursued legal positions on these subjects so they could hire
themselves out as industry experts in some very expensive and damaging lawsuits, including the highest one ever paid out in aviation.”
Steel tube fuselages, “Safe” planes and 250mph accidents “Keep factor #1 in mind: Who is flying? I would rather land a fast wooden plane at night with a zip lock bag of 100LL in my lap, a lit Cuban cigar in my teeth and my feet chained to the rudder pedals than take a trip around the pattern on a sunny day in a Stearman with some of the pilots I have met. I am serious. Avoid these people like your life depends on it, because it does. Make it your goal in aviation not to be one of these pilots.”
Greatest Book on Flying Ever Written, (Is your life worth $16?) “GPS, radios, arbitrary boundaries and written tests have nothing to do with
flying. Don’t worry about the test from the FAA: be much more concerned about the one run by Physics, Chemistry and Gravity when you leave the ground as there are much greater consequences to failing theirs. Langewiesche is going to teach you to pass this far less forgiving exam.”
Above, My friend Bruce Smith, a 25,000 hour aviator for whom I had the greatest respect. He was the personification of why we used to hold airline pilots in great esteem. He was a classic Pan Am overseas captain in the Golden Age of jet travel. He was a man who lived life in a way that Teddy Roosevelt would have called strenuous. Bruce raised his children abroad and captained his own sailboat across the Atlantic many times. Eating dinner with him involved immodest drinking and commensurate storytelling. He’d always flown light aircraft. His Navion was the very first airplane I ever worked on as a newly minted A&P.His fun-loving side coexisted with his far more serious morality. His wife was on the Pan Am 103 flight that was blown up by Libyan terrorists over Lockerbie, Scotland. I met Bruce after this when he was living in modest circumstances. He was one of a very small minority of the victims’ families who refused to accept any compensation offered which did not include a Libyan acknowledgement of their involvement. He traveled to Africa and offered his services to anyone willing to do damage to the Libyan regime. He was principle above all else. In recent years, the Libyans admitted their role and denounced terrorism in order to get their assets unfrozen in the U.S. This never would have happened if Bruce and the handful of others had capitulated on their principles.Over the years that I knew him, Bruce spoke little on these subjects. He was far more concerned with getting the most out of the day at hand. But this was all done while living his life according to his code of what was right. The years I knew him were a sterling example of how a principled and resilient man lives. He was truly a pilot in command of his own life.He died in the crash of a certified Swift airplane. He was ferrying a plane only 10 miles. The plane had been sitting outside more than a year. It was not in good condition. The engine failed shortly after take off.
The New York Times obituary for Bruce Smith is worthwhile reading at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/01/us/01smith.html
Above our friend Ken Terry, A man of huge influence on Grace’s flying. A pilot of tremendous skill, he had flown more than 40,000 hours. As much as his ability it the cockpit was impressive, it was his human character I respected. He was a hard and principled man who had a difficult time sharing space and conversation with people who chose not to care about, nor get involved in the troubles of their fellow man. He could be gregarious and his friendship came both with great trust and the expectation that you would live up to your side. For people who need others to be “nice”, he was intimidating. If you needed a man with principles who was always willing to fight for them, literally if required, Ken was a person you would have treasured.