Letters

September 1, 2008

After the accident

Thank you for this article (“ After the Accident,” July AOPA Pilot). I could visualize the events of that day clearly and, with every sentence, I thought about how many times we all have been in a similar scenario—a beautiful summer day, the smell of the wind at the airport, the meandering crowd at the event, the opportunity to take someone up and share the excitement of defying gravity.

What a thin line there is between our desire for all the variables to align and a wonderful memory of innocent, exuberant flying joy and the horrible tragedy that resulted for both passenger and pilot that day. Great intentions, honorable desires, good planning and stewardship could not sway the horrible outcome.

We have become a nation where an accident is not an acceptable form of resolution to a tragedy anymore. Now all must pay. Surely the courts can add no worse punishment to the pilot than what he has already decreed upon himself. He is as much a victim of this accident as his passenger; the subtle yet profound difference is that he has to live with it.

Julia Burnside, AOPA 961762
Charlotte, North Carolina

Had Mr. Strub been the only soul on the aircraft I would have more sympathy for him. But as pilot in command he was ultimately responsible for his passenger and relinquished all of his safety margin by skimming the riverbed, whether he thought he knew the river route or not. His actions were grossly negligent, and therefore criminal. May we all exercise better judgment.

Charles A. Hulme, AOPA 970017
Laguna Niguel, California

I appreciated your article about Mark Strub’s accident and subsequent legal difficulties. I think his accident is everyone’s worst nightmare, whether in a car or an airplane. Unfortunately our society increasingly wants to assign blame and extract high prices for what are usually almost incidental errors in judgment. Each of us has to be increasingly vigilant and also aware that almost everything we do puts us at some level of risk for stunning consequences. My heart goes out to everyone involved in this accident.

Anne Gallagher, AOPA 3952458
Wichita, Kansas

A very sobering article. This isn’t the typical upbeat aviation topic that dominates the magazine, but I think it is something all pilots need to read. I’m amazed that the pilot was brought up on criminal charges, but it should give fair warning to all pilots that no matter how innocent the intent of a good deed, we could be held legally and criminally responsible for our actions.

Carl Honaker, AOPA 4325722
San Jose, California

Mark Strub exercised poor judgment on that fateful day. Whether his crash was a justifiable criminal offense with jail time is a tough call. I can see it both ways. What I can’t see, however, is any pending civil suit wherein some lawyer seeks to sue everybody within a 25-mile radius. Should this story have been published? Of course it should have been. How many of us have never done anything stupid? Something after the fact we realized “that could have gotten me or someone else killed.” How many of us reacted to the story with “There but for the grace of God go I”? Sharing experiences like this is always a good thing for any safety-conscious pilot.

Jerry Faust, AOPA 4555824
Perkasie, Pennsylvania

We in AOPA should be on the side of the girl’s family and tell this idiot to never fly again. The face in the article should be that of the girl—the one who really paid the price.

Russell English, AOPA 1381622
Galloway, New Jersey

Please add my name to the list of pilots who sympathize with Mark Strub. I have been flying for more than a half-century and have 25,000 hours, including two combat tours in Vietnam. Many times I realize the same thing could have happened to me. The prosecutor sounds like a nut with a political agenda of his own. I hope Mark Strub’s legal troubles are over and that he can renew his love of flying and it is revealed to him just why God did spare him that day.

Pete St. Jean, AOPA 151812
Walhonding, Ohio

I am simply not sympathetic toward the pilot in command. When we, as pilots, private or commercial, take passengers aboard our aircraft, we accept a special responsibility for their safety and welfare. Although the pilot is truly remorseful, he has impacted the victim’s family immeasureably because of his irresponsible behavior. This is about individual accountability—maybe the fear of prosecution will make pilots think before they act.

Edward L. Angel, AOPA 3665792
Shreveport, Louisiana

AOPA Pilot and AOPA Online received a record number of responses to “After the Accident.”—Editors

A new perspective on Cirrus

I enjoyed reading about the new Cirrus (“ A New Perspective on Cirrus,” July AOPA Pilot), but one item in the article highlights that sometimes things are expensive in the aviation business only because it’s what the traffic will bear. How can the guys in Duluth begin to justify charging an extra $12,000 to paint this aircraft in a two-tone scheme? The new Cirrus has to be painted anyway and one would hope the base price includes this. We all feel the pain and voice our concerns over the high price of our avocation/profession, but sometimes we shoot ourselves in the foot and cause it ourselves. This is clearly an example of one of those times.

John R. Mulvey, AOPA 892316
Elkton, Maryland

Air traffic saviors

I really appreciated Bruce Landsberg’s “ Safety Pilot: Air Traffic Saviors” (July AOPA Pilot). There is all too little awareness of the ability, willingness, and expert ability of the controllers to help in sweaty situations. We, as pilots, are all trained to be self-reliant. Sometimes reaching out not only provides the psychological boost to better admit to ourselves the spot we are in, but brings to the table a very able hand that can provide the needed assist to resolve the issue safely. I would rather read about the save than the aftermath and accident diagnosis.

Allan Wulff, AOPA 889512
Reston, Virginia

Skew-T basics

Wx Watch: Skew-T Basics” (July AOPA Pilot) was informative and useful, however I find myself confused by the discussion of determining stability by looking at the alignment of the temperature soundings in relation to the dry adiabats. Compared to the dry adiabats (running southeast to northwest), doesn’t a visually steeper sounding (running south-southeast to north-northwest) indicate a lapse rate less than 3 degrees/1,000 feet and therefore stability and a visually shallower sounding (running east-southeast to west-northwest) indicate a lapse rate greater than 3 degrees/1,000 feet and therefore instability? Or even though the lapse rate is less than 3 degrees/1,000 feet (but not negative as in an inversion) the tendency is for instability? This is my interpretation based on the article:

#1 Dangerously unstable—lapse rate greater than 3 degrees/1,000 feet. Is a lapse rate greater than 3 deg/1,000 even possible?
#2 Unstable—lapse rate of 3 degrees/1,000 feet
#3 Instability better than #2 but worse than #6
#4 Instability better than #3 but worse than #6
#5 Mildly unstable—lapse rate smaller than X deg/1,000
#6 Stable—no lapse rate
#7 Stable/Inversion—negative lapse rate.

Rich Scotto, AOPA 5208444
Acworth, Georgia

Tom Horne responds: #1 is a classic superadiabatic sounding. Heated parcels have no problem rising, because air is so cool; #2 and #3 are soundings that suggest conditionally unstable conditions (stable until clouds generate latent heat of condensation, then rise). #4 is isothermal—no change in temp with altitude; #5, 6, 7—stable soundings, with #7 being a classic sign of an inversion’s sounding, as you note. Try looking at real-world soundings to get a feel for the lapse rates when they call for storms. Just beware the early 12Z sounding—there’s not yet enough surface heating to assist in kicking off convection.

Clarification

Comments in “ Proficient Pilot: SLOPpy Flying,” (July AOPA Pilot) were not meant to imply that pilots of either the Boeing 737 or the Embraer Legacy 600 involved in the midair collision over Brazil were at fault in the accident. AOPA Pilot regrets the confusion.

We welcome your comments. Address letters to: Editor, AOPA Pilot, 421 Aviation Way, Frederick, Maryland 21701. Send e-mail to pilot@aopa.org. Include your full name, address, and AOPA number on all correspondence, including e-mail. Letters will be edited for length and style.