A Piper Cherokee PA-28-236 crashed into a seven-story building housing IRS offices in Austin, Texas, Feb. 18. Law enforcement officials have stated that the aircraft was flown by owner Andrew Joseph Stack III. (Note: Stack is listed two ways in FAA records. The FAA aircraft registry lists the aircraft owner as Joseph A. Stack, but the airmen registry lists him as Andrew Joseph Stack III.) Stack held private pilot instrument and single and multi-engine ratings.
Immediately following news of the crash, AOPA began fielding calls from the media and working with government officials to help keep the incident in perspective. AOPA President Craig Fuller has participated in on-camera interviews with Fox News Channel and CNN, and the association has released an editorial from Fuller to media throughout the country. (See "AOPA President: Perspective on a suicide" at right.)
“It is important in the days ahead that we not overreact to this isolated act of suicide by a deeply troubled person and jeopardize the ability of hundreds of thousands of law-abiding U.S. citizens to fly,” said Fuller. “We need to let the parallel accident and law enforcement investigations proceed and not rush to ill-informed judgments or precipitous actions.”
AOPA will continue to stay in touch with FAA, Transportation Security Administration, and Department of Homeland Security officials.
This week, the aviation community suddenly found itself at the center of the troubling issue of suicide in America. As tragic and dramatic as this one suicide in Austin proved to be, those who influence and make public policy have a responsibility to keep this event in perspective.
Each year, there are more than 30,000 suicides in America. Even more disturbing, the Centers for Disease Control estimates that there are 25 suicide attempts for every suicide death.
But the fact is that pilots are a remarkably healthy group of individuals, both physically and psychologically.