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Going Direct: On Disrespecting Pilots Who Die in Crashes

Providing accident analysis is a critical part of what we aviation journalists do. We try to be objective, but sometimes we’re just human.

On an earlier flight, the Atlas Air Boeing 767 that crashed into Trinity Bay in Houston in 2019, killing all three aboard. Credit: Nathan Coats, via Creative Commons.
On an earlier flight, the Atlas Air Boeing 767 that crashed into Trinity Bay in Houston in 2019, killing all three aboard. Credit: Nathan Coats, via Creative Commons.

I won’t go into the details here, but a reader and onetime contributor to Plane & Pilot lashed out at us, and me, for what they said was an inappropriate tone in an “After the Accident” story written by Peter Katz about the crash of a Baron in Kerrville, Texas, that killed the pilot and his five passengers. The poster’s other complaint was that there were numerous errors, including that we didn’t know the difference between a 58 Baron, which was the accident aircraft type, and a 55 Baron, the only Baron for which we could find a good photo at the time (and pointed out in the caption that it was not the same type, but was similar to the accident aircraft type). Which seems to me definitive proof that we did indeed know the difference between the models. Lastly, they said that the story was filled with errors.

Lots of people came to P&P’s defense. After all, they wrote, the guy ran out of fuel on a short flight and six people lost their lives as a result. Still, I toned down the intro some. It was a little flippant. In our defense, it’s maddening to see a preventable accident take so many innocent lives. The pilot-in-command is the pilot-in-command, and with that privilege comes grave responsibility. That pilot failed in upholding his end of the bargain by keeping his passengers safe. That’s not me: That’s the NTSB’s assertion. I just happen to agree.

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