Come Fly With Me

Another story has appeared in the newspaper which raises more questions than it answers.  Four young people have been killed in a fairly local plane crash.  They all worked for Bombardier Aerospace Industries in Toronto.  The pilot was a 20-year-old male, who was so good a pilot that he had his licence to fly commercial aircraft.  With him, he had a 19-year-old female, a 22-year-old male and a 24-year-old man.

They all drove up to Kitchener, from Toronto, and rented a new, reliable Cessna 132 from the local airport.  There’s where the first question arises.  With three airports within a fifteen-minute to half-hour drive, north of Toronto, why did they drive an hour and a half to Kitchener, to rent a plane?

They told the rental agent that they wanted to fly over Toronto and Niagara Falls.  Again, if they wanted to see Toronto from the air, why not rent a plane near Toronto?  Toronto is east, Niagara Falls is south-east from here.  They crashed on a farm fifty miles north and west of here.  What in Hell were they doing up there?  A resident from the crash area stated that small planes use the uncrowded sky up there to practice “emergency manoeuvres”.  Why would a pilot who already had a commercial licence, need to practice emergency manoeuvres in a small plane?  Was he just showing off?

Witnesses say that the plane was spinning down.  The engine would race and then slow, and it and a strong wind would slow the spiral, but then it would pick up speed again.  The plane did not swoop in and leave a swath of destruction in the farmer’s field.  From the overhead photo, it appears to have smacked down on its belly on five-foot tall corn, so gently that one wing was barely snapped off.

I would wonder about a plane-crash that gentle, killing all four occupants, but I have personally witnessed two car crashes which showed just how capricious fate can be.  I watched a car go off the outside of a banked curve one night.  It tumbled corner over corner, seven times.  A four-door hard-top, with all the windows down, it left an unbelted passenger behind without a scratch, as the open window rolled away from him.  There also wasn’t an injury among the other two riders, or any of the 48 bottles of beer they had in the car.  It came to rest leaning against a little maple tree no bigger than my thumb, at the top of a riverbank, 75 feet above the water.

On the other hand, I witnessed a delicate little rear-end collision one day, so soft that the radiator in the rear car wasn’t even damaged.  Unfortunately, the passenger in the front car was killed.  Apparently he was leaning forward, just enough, and at just the right angle that the impact whip-lashed his neck, and without the headrest to support him, the impact snapped his spine.

This is a strange little case.  Did one of the passengers panic when the emergency actions started?  Did someone get thrown against the controls?  Several official agencies are investigating.  It may take a while, but I suspect that, like the Negro, mysteriously stabbed to death in the park, sooner or later we’ll get enough information to at least make an educated guess.

With the wife’s inhalant allergies, our trips are restricted to places we can drive to.  I have only flown twice in my life.  Once we went out to the local airport for the annual air show, and found that, for $20 apiece, we could have a half-hour flight in a fifty-seater, around the cities.  I was the last to board on one flight, and wound up jammed in the last seat in the tail, with no porthole to see out of.  I managed to get a bit of a look through the window ahead of me.  Good thing it only cost twenty bucks.  It was about as exciting as riding around in a shipping container.

The other flight I had, was a bit longer, and in a little four-seater quite similar to the one that just crashed.  The president of the small company I worked for was a plane-nut.  He was the president of the local flying club.  He didn’t own the plane, but could use it whenever no-one else had it, for the cost of fuel.

He had a potential customer and his wife, that he wanted to impress, and had promised them an airplane ride.  He expected me to share his passion for flying, and voluntold me that I would be coming along on the flight after work.  The flight lasted two hours, and, at least I got to ride up front in the co-pilot’s seat, with a good view.  We flew south, out over the coast of Lake Erie, turned around and flew back.  I got to see the Nanticoke Nuclear Power station from the air.  I think it’s illegal to fly directly over it.

Halfway home, he *suggested* that I take the controls for a few minutes.  I demurred, but this was a man who didn’t take no for an answer, so I wound up flying the plane for about fifteen minutes.  It’s like when your Dad took the car out on the highway, and let you sit in his lap and steer.  Oh yeah, with seatbelts and traffic cops, we don’t do that anymore.  The controls were light and easy.  Despite my initial misgivings, I really enjoyed it, but like many other things in my life, finances put it out of my reach.