30 August 2006

How Incredibly Sad

Com Air 5191

We already know most of what there is to know about the accident.
The rest of what we will learn will be detail: more "why" than "what".

I've discussed my feelings about airplanes in several previous posts. I'm uncomfortable in them. You can't see out of them, and the bigger airplanes are, in many cases, worse than the smaller ones. Windshields are tiny, almost like they are an afterthought.
You can't see through the wing on an airplane. This is more of a problem on small airplanes than big ones. But look through pictures of strange events in aviation, and you'll likely find several pics of low wing airplanes perched on top of high wing airplanes....... both lined up for approach on the same runway at the same time....... neither of them saw the other until they started hearing expensive noises.

But what scares me most about airplanes is the speed in proximity to the ground.
In a helicopter, I know what my power reserves are the moment I lift the machine into a hover. I pretty much know immediately what sort of distances/obstacle clearance I'm gonna need to take off.

If you have control of the airplane, it is impossible to slow it below it's stall speed. The inverse of that is that the airplane will not fly until you exceed it's stall speed.
I know no technical details about the CRJ that Com Air was operating, but Big Bubba, Sara Jean and I flew in a couple of them on a flight to Washington, D.C. several years ago.
It is a beautiful thing to look at, and we were as comfortable flying in it as we would have been in a Boeing 757. I have heard they require about 6000 feet of runway to gather enough speed to fly. That's just over a mile, accelerating hard all the way.

I cannot imagine how the pilots must have felt when it became apparent they were on that short runway. As they saw the runway end get nearer and nearer, they knew they were in trouble, and when the end of the runway passed beneath them they had to have been going mighty fast, just not fast enough, and knew then that they were in BIG trouble.

The surviving First Officer is badly hurt and may not make it due to complications from injuries. I hope he survives and is able to fill in some of the details we need to help keep this sort of thing from happening again. But we have learned that he was the "Pilot at the controls", so he will feel ultimately responsible for the accident. He will also suffer from survivor's guilt. His life is forever changed.

We also know now that the Tower should have been manned with two controllers, and only one was on duty. That guy also will play "If Only" games in his mind for the rest of his life.

Pray for both of these guys.
They'll both need it.



Yes, both of these men are going to struggle with this for a long time. Survivors' guilt reminds me of the plane flying the football team, out of Kansas, that took a sight-seeing tour into a canyon, and when it was too late, the pilot realized it was a boxed canyon. One of the pilots survived, but many died in the crash. I never knew what happened to him, though.

Infinitegtr said...

Survivor's guilt is only gonna be the half of it. For the next ten years both these guys, deservedly or not, will be chased through the criminal and civil legal systems for the next decade. Deservedly or not, lawyers who don't make their living placing the lives of other people in their hands, will accuse these guys of every fault and failure known to human kind.

It is sad when failures, accidents, oversights combine into tragedies such as these. It is equally sad that people will become political and legal sacrificial lambs in a slow death of a thousand cuts.