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You may never have another chance

You may never have another chance

Safety Column Feb. 2015

You may never have another chance By John Alkire

I want to share with you one of my experiences from ICAS last December.

I went to an afternoon session one day about Safety – Airshow Performer Safety to be precise. I didn’t really know what to expect. There were probably 60-70 people in the room, mostly performers. There was a forum of experienced performers on stage, many long time experts highly recognized for being the best of their ilk.

The crux of this session was to review the three fatal accidents that occurred at airshows in 2014. An airshow performer discussed each accident. In each case, the person talking about the accident was a close personal friend of the pilot that was killed.

Watching these long-term airshow professionals talking about how and why their friend died goes beyond moving. It was heroic. And as difficult as it was to talk about the accident, they somehow mustered the wherewithal to do it so others could learn.

There was the video, not shown to the bitter end, followed by a technical discussion about what happened. He was too low, he pulled out of the maneuver too severely and probably passed out due to pulling too many G’s, he started the maneuver with not enough airspeed, etc.

What I want to tell you about is something much more important than the technical details. In each and every instance, the person telling the story had one clear message. “I was not comfortable with that maneuver my friend was doing.” “I was afraid he was taking an undue risk,” and so forth. And what was the most moving was that they – to a person – said “I should have gotten involved” or “ I should have made my friend aware of my concerns.” They did not.

Airshow acrobatic performers are a close knit community. Much like NASCAR and other types of race drivers are. The guy that takes the most chances and puts on the best show is the winner. These guys are all competing and the best man wins. I get it. I understand how competitive this business is. I understand that there are huge egos involved in some cases.

So what does this have to do with us? We in the CAF are not a bunch of guys/girls in red biplanes that do twisty-turney stuff in front of a crowd.

There are some parallels between these guys and us that you might want to think about. We are also a close knit bunch. We also have some pretty good sized egos and sometimes when we see something that we think is dangerous, we don’t get involved. There are a variety of reasons- I get it.

Each of those men wished he had the chance to do this over; to get involved; to warn his friend about the danger. He does not have that chance. His friend and brother performer is dead.

Don’t let this happen to you. If you see one of your friends or a wing member doing something that gives you concern for their safety or the safety of our aircraft, get involved. Speak up! You may never have another chance.

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