Aviation Tragedy…

Yesterday, Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven other souls departed this realm as a result of a helicopter crash. As is the custom now, social media has erupted with opinions on this event from all 360 degrees of the compass. As stated previously, I’ve taken a hiatus from social media so I know of no specifics of the social media takes, beyond my conviction that 98% is ego driven moralizing speculation.

The one fact I do know is that the largest single law enforcement aviation arm in this country is located in Southern California and they choose to ground their entire aviation fleet yesterday morning due to the fog conditions. Now to be fair, there could have been a catastrophic mechanical failure that no pilot could overcome; fog or no fog. The NTSB will determine that over the course of their investigation.

As aviators we are trained that the order of importance for safety decisions are- 1, passengers, 2, property and people on the ground, 3, our aircraft, 4, ourselves. A good pilot never deviates from that particular sequence. An absolute must is to possess the ability to cancel a flight when the weather is not cooperating. “Get there-itis” has killed many, many people for no other reason than the pilot refusing to acknowledge his lack of skills for the current meteorological conditions.

My fear is that the PIC (Pilot In Command) of Mr. Bryant’s flight made getting Mr. Bryant and his party to their destination a priority over their personal safety. The pull on a pilot to display his aviation skills in overcoming weather adversity is incredibly strong. Especially when offered the opportunity to perform those skills for one of the most gifted basketball players ever. We call it “scud running”. It is when we take-off and fly under the weather to get to our desired destination. I am guilty myself, but never with passengers and never over populated areas. Even if the weather is above “minimums”; when you carry passengers you must assume something is going to break and ask yourself the question: “Will I have enough altitude to have options on how I put my aircraft down back on the ground, not just enough for flying along clipping the bottom of barely legal cloud decks”.

We pilots are also trained to have a “Personal Minimums” checklist. This is a list of conditions from which we never deviate for the sole purpose of conducting our flight safely; maximum crosswind component, maximum flight time until landing for fuel, minimum cloud ceiling, etc. These personal minimums change based on an individual pilot’s skill and growing experience. The determining factor is how good one is at critical self-examination. Mr. Bryant’s pilot was less than accurate in his critical self-examination of his pilot skill set and it killed himself, Mr Bryant and seven other people. …a crucial lesson for all pilots out there from which to learn.

Rest In Peace to the members of that flight…


Katharine Bonnoront– When I first met Ms. Bonnoront she was thirteen year old Katie Hedge and a member of my daughter’s group of King’s Island gigglers. Over the years it has been a joy to watch her blossom into the competent woman and committed educator of our societies children.

Kelsey Hanlon She was a stage manager for a production of Irma Vep for which I was the scenic designer. She handled my designer petulance with grace and extreme patience. She is a woman of great courage and determination with a beautiful family.

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