If Only

I’ve lost far too many friends to skydiving and flying accidents. The current count is somewhere in the 17 – 18 range. (It hurts too much to really sit down and count) The latest was and young man who I taught to skydive. He’d decided to change his lives direction and become a helicopter pilot. It was and admirable goal as well as an expensive one to undertake as a civilian. If you think renting an airplane will hit you in the pocketbook try looking at your receipt after helicopter lessons. But he persevered and not only got his helicopter license but his commercial rating as well.

He somehow managed to actually find work as newly minted helicopter pilot with no military experience. (It can be tough to compete with Army pilots who have hundreds or thousands of hours flying the most complicated machines in the world.) The young man got hired by a helicopter company that did a little bit of everything and that’s just what he did. Powerline patrol, survey work and giving rides. He even gave a Valentines day ride to good friends of mine and spent a week with an old Army buddy surveying damage from the spring floods in Missouri last year.

His last job was flying a DNR biologist around doing raptor counts. Now I know what you’re thinking. Flying low and slow, turning tight to see what kind of hawk is in some tree is how my friend died. Nope. He died on the way home. On a beautiful sunny afternoon in western Iowa. Flying low over pool table smooth, farmland he struck a set of power lines and two lives were snuffed out in an instant.

Why was he flying so low? We’ll never know for sure but I’ll bet he thought it was fun. Right up to the end.

This is just one more case where I wish I could have been there. So many times I’ve wished I could have given a bit of advice, shouted a warning or grabbed the controls. In most cases ten seconds or less would have made all the difference. But I can’t be there. All I can do is tell my pilot friends and family of the times I did stupid things and got away with it. Because you have to learn from the mistakes of others. You’ll never live long enough to make them all yourself.

whole reason I started this post was because I read this article. I intended to just post the link but felt more needed to be said.

If Only… The Friends I’ve Lost In Airplane Accidents

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