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Monthly Archives: June 2009

Today’s post, Anatomy of a Crash, was inspired by the second crash of an Airbus jet in 30 days. This crash occurred in the Indian Ocean, 12 miles from the Yemen coast and had 153 people on board. Maybe it is just coincidence, but maybe there is a serious problem with Airbus planes. And even if it is a coincidence, I’m sure there are many other people out there who will still question the safety of Airbus (especially ones heading to Paris).

The real trouble for Cecil A. Murray started a few minutes after taking off in Cessna 421 on April 17, 2009.

Murray, who’s exchanges with the control tower are calm at first, quickly becomes gripped with what sounds like panic or fear. After requesting to come back and land, Murray is assigned a runway. But after a few short moments, the reality of his situation grips him.

“I’m having some trouble here, I’m going to have to come around and land,” Murray radios in.

“Number 3 5 gulf, enter right downwind runway 8,” responds ground control.

Following a brief  silence, ground control states “number 3 5 gulf, any runway.” This is when you know something is terribly wrong. This is a point of desperation. Usually ground control picks open runways where wind is most helpful. Any runways is an attempt to just get the plane on the ground.

Then comes what is the hardest part of the tape to listen to. The props get louder as they spin faster, which means the plan is gaining speed from heading towards the ground. After a few quick shallow breaths, the last transmission of Murray is heard, a simple, scared yelp.

At 14:26 of the ground control tape, you can hear an air traffic controller in the background yell, “oh! fire.” From there out, the voice of the air traffic controller speaking on the radio rises slightly in pitch, his words quicken and bated as you can only guess what is going through his mind as the reality of the accident sets in.

The fire department is called to the scene, but it is too late for Murray.

Murray was 80 years old, but was up to date on all the medical requirements of the Federal Aviation Administration.  In fact, according to the preliminary FAA report, at the time of the crash, “the pilot reported a total flight experience of 23,000 hours. The pilot’s wife reported that he had approximately 5,000 hours of flight experience in the accident airplane.”

The official reason for the crash is still unknown. According to the FAA, several witness saw flames coming out of one of the engines shortly after takeoff. And before even taxing out, it seemed like the pilot was trouble shooting his engine.

The preliminary accident report also states that Murray usually flew in from Costa Rica for a few weeks every year and this time around, he was trying to sell the airplane. Was simply impatient and wanting to get back home what caused Murray to ignore obvious signs that his plane was in trouble? Would a more cautious pilot decided against taking off? Possibly. But that kind of speculation doesn’t undo the accident, however it can help prevent future ones.

If your airplane seems to be having troubles, be patient, call a mechanic. This doesn’t have to apply to just pilots. If your car isn’t quite running right, don’t take it out on the highway. In any part of life, ignoring obvious signs of danger is a sure way to ensure you will be in an accident.

A slidshow of the house the plane crashed into can be found here.

Whether it is canoeing the Coldwater Creek in Florida (which my father, brother and I did last summer) or traveling to Tzartus Island to build a worship center, I love adventures. Like I said in my previous post, I like to see how far the human body and mind, specifically my own, can be pushed.

During my time on Tzartus Island, it rained on us while we worked 12 hour days for a week, but the majority of the people I was with were able to push through the discomfort and physical strain. We were even able to find a sort of happiness in our work, or at least I was.Ed Stafford

But Ed Stafford makes building a worship center in the rain look like child’s play when it comes to endurance of difficult circumstances. Stafford is attempting to walk the length of the Amazon river. That’s right, WALK the Amazon river.  I know a family that lives in Quito Ecuador and from their description of a foray into the jungle there, if the bugs don’t eat every inch of your skin, they will drive you mad with their humming and buzzing.

According to Stafford’s blog, Walking the Amazon, he has been trekking for 453 days and still has a ways to go.  We need more adventurers like Stafford. The “because it’s there” mindset seems to have waned as of late. It is good to see there are still spirits out there who aren’t satisfied with the status quo.

While I was stuffing myself with delicious Indian and Sushi cuisine this weekend, 241 people finished the Western States 100. I don’t claim to be a marathoner of any kind (half to ultra) but I do enjoy running. And I like seeing how far I can push myself, but I can only imagine the kind of mental and physical fortitude this people have.

If you poke around their Web site you can find  some of the elevation gains the runners had to deal with and the time in which people finished. Those facts blow my mind and are a testament to the beauty of human physiology and psychology.

“My dad was eager to share his passions. Before kindergarten, he pushed me to ski steeps, and by grammar school he forced me to surf waves twice my height. But when our chartered Cessna crashed on a remote winter mountain, all that hard work paid off.”

An excert from Crazy for the Storm. More can be found at Men’s Journal.

I know this is a lazy post, considering none of it is orginally from me ( I even used MJ’s excerpt) but it is the weekend and I have to go swimming for important research into rest and relaxation.

Thursday I wrote about the act of courage I saw my friend Kevin Lee commit on a muddy, rain-swollen creek.

The newspaper company he works for asked him to write a first-hand account of what happened. Comparing his vision of what happened with mine creates an interesting juxtaposition in how people remember situations differently. In order to make sense of life in general and stressful situations in particular, we form a narrative of events in our mind. Often the narrative is flawed and exaggerated, not intentionally but because in order to understand what happened we have to fill in gaps with speculation that eventually hardens into facts (for the individual at least).

It seems that Kevin and I have about the same story, but there are still differences, and I’m sure if you talked to the two other people involved in the story you would get two more, slightly different, versions of the story.

When it comes to the raw emotion of fear, the fight or flight instinct, it seems no one has it master more than members of bomb squads. By their own volition, they put themselves in situations that the majority of of sane people would run from. What makes their brain different? How are they able to maintain composure under such life threatening circumstances? Unfortunately, I don’t have the answers (chapter in future book?) HLposterUSA2

The Hurt Locker, an upcoming movie about the war in Iraq, looks to make visceral the experience of the leader of an US Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit. The reviews thus far have nothing but praise for The Hurt Locker and the trailer looks amazing.

This seems to be in position to be a sleeping giant of the summer and I for one will definitely make a trip to see it.