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Old 09-08-2015, 08:47 AM
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LettersFromFlyoverCountry LettersFromFlyoverCountry is offline
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: St. Paul, MN.
Posts: 4,702
Default Aid and comfort

My RV can do many cool things and take me to many enjoyable places. Last evening I learned it can help do something more: provide aid and comfort to people.

This is Sue and Gary. A few years ago, pretty much on this same spot on the Alexandria, MN apron, Sue said goodbye to her brother, her mother, and her sister in law, when they got in a Bonanza for a trip to Colorado. She'd asked her mother not to go; she just had a feeling.

Her brother's plane crashed in a field not far outside the Twin Cities. He had flown into IMC and as he emerged from the 900-foot overcast, the wing fell off, and then the tail.

I wrote about it for my day job and when she found it on Google, she dropped me an email last week asking if she could talk to me about it and learn more about my observations. "The tone was different than what I've read," she said. "And maybe it's because you're a pilot."

She had read the Aero News Network (please note: By NO stretch of the imagination will I ever be a fan of Jim Campbell's work). She thought it made her brother seem stupid and negligent. It's a good reminder of why we have to be careful when discussing accidents. Stick to the facts; avoid the judgments. Resist the social media urge to shame the pilot.

"Where are you located?" I asked in a return email.

"Alexandria," she said.

"I'll fly up to see you. How's Monday?"

So I did. And I had a story to tell her. It was about how easy it is for humans to make the same mistake her brother made, and until you experience GetHomeItis firsthand, you can't begin to understand the power it holds over even the most experienced pilots.

I told her about my trip to Massachusetts last fall, just three days after attending an Air Safety Foundation seminar on weather traps, specifically, GetHomeItis.

Three days later, I made just about every mistake I was warned not to make.

It can happen to anyone. Unexpected weather killed Scott Crossfield, and he had the Right Stuff.

As I spiraled through the clouds on an ill-advised and unnecessary attempt to land last year, I thought about the article I'd written about her brother. That was just about the time when I had the thought that someone was soon going to be writing about me.

I told her about the statistic I learned at the ASF Forum. The life expectancy of a VFR pilot flying into IMC is about 3 minutes.

The color seemed to drain from her face. She had never heard the statistic before. She wants to write a book about the accident, she told me. She heard a voice while taking a shower not long after her brother's plane crashed. It said the name of the book should be, "Three Minutes."

She wanted to hear how planes come apart. I explained that while the plane separated after it had emerged from the clouds, the damage was probably done while her brother was still in IMC. For all I know, I said, they might've suffered tremendous G forces that made them black out. I don't know. Maybe. Maybe not.

We chatted for about an hour, but there's nothing really you can say to make anyone feel better about losing three family members.

Her husband said she was very touched that I flew up. "Your brother is part of a very small fraternity," I said. "And now you are too. And it's what we do."

It rained while we were having our coffee, and she begged me not to launch into bad weather. If something happened to me, she said, she could never forgive herself.

I'd seen the showers on the hour-long flight up, and they were widely scattered, I assured her. And I'm a very careful pilot who knows a lot more know about GetHomeItis.

As they walked me out to the ramp for my flight home, her husband asked if they could say a prayer for me. Though I'm not religious by any stretch, I said, "sure." And so there we stood as darkness fell, her husband asking for a higher power's protection on this and all future flights.

You fly a lot more carefully, I noticed, when someone you've known for two hours holds your hand and wishes you godspeed.

I sent a text message when I got home, to let them know I arrived home just fine, vowing silently to myself never to put my family in a position of wondering what happened to me that time I went flying.
Bob Collins
St. Paul, MN.
Blog: Letters From Flyover Country
RV-12iS fuselage
Builder log

Last edited by LettersFromFlyoverCountry : 09-08-2015 at 02:55 PM. Reason: Grammar errors
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Old 09-08-2015, 09:20 AM
David Paule David Paule is offline
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Boulder, CO
Posts: 3,361

Thank you very much for sharing that, and for writing it so well.

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Old 09-08-2015, 09:29 AM
rhill rhill is offline
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Valley Forge, Pa
Posts: 585

Really good piece Bob.........Thank you!
Dues paid in 2016
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Old 09-08-2015, 10:31 AM
sblack sblack is offline
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Montreal
Posts: 1,240

This is a bit like the old 180 deg turn after an engine failure. I know 20,000 hr pilots with 4000 hrs of instructing who, upon having it happen to them, tried to turn around themselves. It has happened a 1000 times and continues to happen, just like flight into IMC. We are all human and most humans behave in a similar manner. It takes a lot of self discipline to avoid these situations and we never know until we are there if we will get suckered in. I hope I don't, but I am old enough and humble enough (i.e I've messed up enough times) to admit I don't really know.

This is a heart breaking story.
Scott Black
RV 4, with an engine...and other stuff
VAF dues 2016

Last edited by DeltaRomeo : 09-08-2015 at 11:55 AM.
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Old 09-08-2015, 10:56 AM
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flightlogic flightlogic is offline
Join Date: Nov 2013
Location: Prescott, AZ
Posts: 1,436

You can clearly feel good about yourself.... and what you do. Well done !
"Kindness is never a bad plan."

Work bio: Avionics tech support; ATP rated in planes.Helicopter rated, balloon instructor, seaplanes and for grins, Phantom Drone pilot. Instructor for air medical and law enforcement tactical radio systems. Fly my RV9A to work every week. Janitor when and as needed.
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Old 09-08-2015, 11:33 AM
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Ironflight Ironflight is offline
VAF Moderator / Line Boy
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Dayton, NV
Posts: 11,566

Great story Bob - you should think about writing more - might be a living in it.... ;-)

I really enjoyed this one!
Paul F. Dye
Editor in Chief - KITPLANES Magazine
RV-8 - N188PD - "Valkyrie"
RV-6 (By Marriage) - N164MS - "Mikey"
RV-3B - N13PL - "Tsamsiyu"
A&P, EAA Tech Counselor/Flight Advisor
Dayton Valley Airpark (A34)
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Old 09-08-2015, 11:37 AM
NYTOM NYTOM is online now
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Raleigh, North Carolina
Posts: 989
Thumbs up Avoiding "GetHomeItis" should be driven home

Bob that was a great post and a vivid reminder to me about "GetHomeItis".
That illness almost did me in years back when I was away from my wife and kids for a week. That flight is a whole other story but I figured God gave a second chance and I have never abused it since.
You are so right. Anyone, and I mean everyone can catch this when you least expect it and it has the ability to cloud the minds of even the most experienced pilots.
A little plaque with that "VFR lifespan into IMC = 3minutes" phrase on VFR pilots panels might be a good idea.
Tom Norwood
Classic "Short Tail Six" A Model N822PM (Res)
98% done, 94% to go! Oh so close!
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Old 09-08-2015, 04:48 PM
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RickWoodall RickWoodall is offline
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Ontario Canada
Posts: 1,335
Default Good job

Great of you to take the time, and effort to help her.

Even better of you to share the story. Well done Sir.
Rick Woodall C-GSTT "ghost"
9a -TMX io-320, catto three blade, dynon skyview with a/p. 800+ hrs in 6 yrs flying.

Osh 11,12,15,17. Sun N Fun 2013. Flew to Cali/up pacific to Washington/Vancouver/crossed the Rockies east across Canada. North to Red Deer Alberta and Moosonee Ontario East to Maritimes Canada. South east to Jekyll Isl on atlantic, Cedar Key and Key West too! 4 trips and 14 islands of the Bahamas too! Flown turtles and dogs for Pilots n Paws too. Love our Rv's
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Old 09-08-2015, 05:00 PM
rjtjrt rjtjrt is offline
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Australia
Posts: 703

Some good that has come out of a tragic event.
Well done, and beautifully written.
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Old 09-08-2015, 05:48 PM
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Vlad Vlad is offline
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: NJ
Posts: 7,237

Thanks Bob. It got me thinking.
Where is N666BK?

Не имей сто рублей, а имей сто друзей.
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