Warning: ob_start(): non-static method anchor_utils::ob_filter() should not be called statically in /home/kradmin/public_html/wp-content/plugins/auto-thickbox/anchor-utils/anchor-utils.php on line 33

Warning: ob_start(): non-static method sem_seo::ob_google_filter() should not be called statically in /home/kradmin/public_html/wp-content/plugins/sem-seo/sem-seo.php on line 540

Kyle and Amanda Franklin

On March 12 in Brownsville, Texas, air show performers Kyle and Amanda Franklin were entertaining the crowd with their trademark Pirated Skies routine just as they have countless other air show audiences with their flair for over-the-top dramatics and silliness. Amanda the wing walker was atop the wing while Kyle flew the big Waco biplane. At a critical moment in a low-altitude maneuver, the engine failed. Amanda had just enough time to climb back into the cockpit before the airplane crashed. An emergency crew quickly reached the scene, but not before Kyle and especially Amanda were badly burned.

As of this writing Kyle, although badly injured, is alert and communicating, but Amanda's injuries are very severe. She will have a very long road to recovery.

Whenever an airplane crashes, those of us who love flying are left to ask why. It's easy to wax philosophical and chalk it up to fate or to state the obvious that flying, especially air show routines like the Franklins', has certain unavoidable risks. Ernest K. Gann wrote one of the great aviation memoirs, Fate is The Hunter, with this thesis. When your number comes up, says Gann, it's all over.

I've never been satisfied with these dismissals. I find them too easy and glib and I refuse to resign myself to an inevitable and impersonal fate. Yes, there's precious little that we truly control in our lives, but we have enormous influence over the circumstances of our flying and our safety in the air.

I do my best to avoid second-guessing a pilot's decisions and actions. Kyle Franklin is a far more skilled and experienced aviator than I, and it certainly wasn't any lack of training or skill on his part that was responsible for this crash. Nevertheless, I feel a responsibility to learn as much as I can from such catastrophes to make my own flying safer.

Part 91 of the Federal Aviation Regulations (14 CFR 91.119) requires that, except when necessary for takeoff or landing, aircraft be flown at "an altitude allowing, if a power unit fails, an emergency landing without undue hazard to persons or property on the surface." This regulation, together with FAR 91.13's prohibition against "careless or reckless operation," is actually quite a tall order. Most GA IFR flying, for example, is still done along Victor airways, which are located according to the ground-based navigation aids that define them. Little consideration seems to be given to safety, as many of these airways traverse inhospitable terrain where it would be very difficult, even from the minimum en route altitude, to glide to a safe landing in the event of an engine failure.

The advent of GPS has made flying direct from point to point so easy and fast that it's tempting to ignore the terrain along the route for the sake of convenience, even at the expense of increased risk. I find myself thinking more seriously these days about these regulations and the intent behind them, and I'm planning a series of posts on the topic over the coming weeks. This blog is about confidence in the cockpit, and in my opinion a confidence not rooted in the kinds of skills, knowledge, and judgment required to fly safely wouldn't be worth much.

In the meantime, however, I'm thinking about Kyle and Amanda Franklin. They're going to need a lot of help from our aviation community in their recovery. Donations towards their medical care are being accepted by the Moonlight Fund and the ICAS Foundation. Please give what you can.

Post a comment

Filed under Mission by  #

Leave a Comment

Comments are queued and moderated daily.

Fields marked by an asterisk (*) are required.

Register Login