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Amanda Franklin

On Monday morning, Memorial Day, I was sitting at my desk, reading my email. My buddy Hal had forwarded a link to an Avweb article about recent discoveries in the investigation of the Air France flight 447 crash. But as I was scrolling to the article, I came across another news item that stopped me cold. On Friday, May 27th, Amanda Franklin, 25-year-old air show performer, died from injuries sustained in a March 12th crash during a performance in Brownsville, Texas.

I wrote about Amanda and her husband Kyle in my March 24th post, joining many others in an appeal to the aviation community for help in their time of great need.

It's always heartbreaking to lose someone so young and dynamic so suddenly and unexpectedly. We ask why it had to happen, even though we know there's no answer forthcoming. I recently learned that in theology this problem is called "theodicy," a term coined by Leibnitz from Greek words meaning "God" and "justice." It's the fundamental question of how to reconcile a loving and compassionate God, the essential goodness of life, with the incredible suffering that persists in the world. Many great thinkers over the centuries have grappled with this question and I won't claim any fresh insights here. But each of us eventually faces this question in a very personal way. For many of us who fly, events like Amanda's death can lead us to question how we can persist in pursuing what we love, what really matters to us, when its risks and costs can seem untenable.

It might seem odd with so many horrific natural disasters in the news that the death of one young woman would affect me so. A big part of it is the kinship that all of us with a passion for flight share. Amanda made the choice at a very young age to build her life around this passion because it's what really mattered to her. She and Kyle chose to pursue what they loved, the art and craft of flying, and to share their passion with audiences all over the country through exuberant performances.

My own personal response in the wake of Amanda's death is to re-commit to my own passion for flying and to continue to share it with others through my writing, speaking, and teaching. Even in the face of such a tragedy, I firmly believe that we can pursue our passion for flight safely, and I promise to do so. I do not accept Ernest K. Gann's thesis that Fate is the Hunter.

But whatever my thoughts in the wake of this horrible loss, Kyle and his family still need our help. The Moonlight Fund and the ICAS Foundation are accepting donations, and the 2011 Aviation Roundup air show will be held on August 27th and 28th in Minden, Nevada with proceeds benefiting Kyle and Amanda's family. My wife Janet and I plan to be there to show our support. If you live in the Western states and can make it there, I encourage you to join us. And if you're an air show performer, they're still looking for participants. It promises to be a fitting and moving tribute to a young woman who committed her life to what she loved most.

Blue skies, Amanda. You'll be missed.

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