Today’s crash of a Piper Cherokee in Austin Texas made national news. The pilot was a man troubled by taxes, big government and corporations but unlike most of us, decided to show a little retribution. It leaves it its wake more fear mongering among the main stream media, casting another shadow on general aviation.
Bruce Landsberg, executive director of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation said. “The NTSB has found very few suicides involving GA aircraft – only 21 since 1983.” That’s an average of 1.1 suicide accidents per year, Landsberg noted. Three of the 21 involved student pilots; they had an average flight time of 61 hours. No ground injuries have resulted from any GA suicide accidents.
But there have been buildings. The Austin crash did relatively little damage not unlike the Cessna C172 that was smashed into a building eight years ago by Charles Bishop who also left behind a strange note.
Peter Garrison of Flying magazine captured the dark side of all this in a Feb 2005 article where he documented a number of stories involving Pilots Gone Sad. Invariably, it doesn’t involve hurtling planes at other people. Almost always it involves just the pilot.
The tower controller asked whether he would be able to get down and land, and the pilot replied, “This will be my final landing.” He pushed the nose over, increased power, and dove into the runway.
No doubt, there will be the expected cry for more stringent regulations and increased security, casting aspersions on pilots as ticking time bombs. It all began when planes were associated with terrorism during 9-11. Since then, we’ve borne additional scrutiny. But for all of the hype, it’s important to remember it’s only one out of 600,000 good men and women.