Icarus Series #3: Flying Too Close To The Sun

Icarus wings of wax

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Icarus was so enchanted by flight that he failed to heed his father’s warnings and crashed into the sea. He became hypnotized; drunken by his senses. He flew too close to the sun and melted his wings.


How many of us have found ourselves in this state? So enthused by the gift of flight that we completely dismissed any of the risks involved.    


AOPA did an article in 2008 about Mark Strub. Four years earlier Mark was giving rides in his Stearman during a balloon rally in Wisconsin. His last ride of the day was with Kimberly Reed. Unfortunately something went terribly wrong. Mark made the impulsive decision to fly low over an unfamiliar section of river, resulting in hitting power lines. They crashed into the river and Kimberly was trapped in the front cockpit by the collapsed upper wing. This event took her life and left Mark forever consumed by guilt.


Stripped of his license, Mark’s wings were melted for good. His life was spared, but scarred forever. He also has the distinction of being the first pilot to be criminally convicted for a domestic aircraft accident.  I encourage you to check it out – it’s a chilling read.

LINK: http://www.aopa.org/News-and-Video/All-News/2008/July/1/After-the-Accident


Don’t get me wrong, I’m no prude. I have done plenty of things that involved risk. But we must remember the choices we make affect others as well. Mark’s choice that day ended a women’s life, destroyed his, and put our freedom of flight at risk.  


What compels us to put ourselves into harm’s way? Certainly it’s not intentional. Is it arrogance? Is it naivety? Ignorance? Do we just become so consumed that we can’t see the forest for the trees? Is it the “bad things only happen to other people” mentality? There’s a lot of behavior science you could interject here, but my money is on raw impulsiveness. I don’t believe pilots are naive or ignorant – they might be a tad arrogant. I believe most of these kinds of accidents are just risks that were taken without any forethought – completely impulsive. 


We should seek to enjoy flying and all that comes with it, but only fools ignore the risks. It is not as safe as driving a car. It does require special training and skills to do well. And sometimes even that isn’t enough. Mark flew too close to the sun that day, let us learn from his mistake as to not repeat it. 


By Brent Owens <click my name to email me>

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