The lessons in this captivating and sad story could save my life, maybe yours, too.
A hiker got lost in the woods and faced a cold night in deteriorating weather. This is the story of a helicopter rescue gone horribly wrong. It is a powerful reminder of forces that can shape our decisions in deadly ways; simple forces, simple concepts, that affect us subconsciously.
Lets face it, what we do as paramotor pilots is risky, especially for those who tend to push it. And there’s no escaping that a little push is damned fun–a fact that I’m painfully aware of but accept the risk to taste the fun. I do recognize the downside. Many scenes that I’ve flown for this Master PPG video have involved extra risks but so do mundane flights.
There are ways of thinking that, if we can learn, if we can internalize how these thought processes can be so influential, we can reduce our risk by recognizing that it’s time to say “no.” We must be willing to take an immediate inconvenience (walking home, for example) over pressing on in deteriorating conditions (weather or mechanical). Think of the para pilot in Monument Valley who pressed on in nasty conditions for “just a quickie” and died as a result.
The AOPA Safety Foundation video linked here is a compelling story. I think you’ll find well worth the effort of creating a free account and watching it. AOPA does a lot to defend our airspace, too, so I encourage membership. Same with EAA — supporting these orgs gives them more political pull to better fight efforts to limit our freedom.
This applies to driving as well. If you’re feeling the need to nod, you’re at the same risk as being drunk. Have you ever said “I’m almost home” as you pushed through nodding off? I have. But I’m now far more likely to stop at a gas station and catch a 10 minute nap.
If you can’t watch it directly, go to their online courses website and scroll down to, or search “Accident Case Study: Rescue Gone Wrong”.
Why So Focused On Accidents?
We fly PPG because its fun. Getting maimed or dying puts a big, cold damper on that fun so I’d like to improve my odds at flying for a long time and figure that others may benefit, too. It’s entirely possible that reminding myself of these things has already saved my life especially given how many extra risks I pile on to basic PPG flight (photography, close formation, landing on pinnacles, landing on moving vehicles, wingtip drags, competition, etc.). It’s still risky, and may still be my undoing, but I’d like to at least improve my odds. Just want to share it with everyone.
Plus, being in the airline industry, I’ve watched the INCREDIBLY safety improvements made possible by a combination of equipment improvement and realistic training programs. These have been REMARKABLY successful and think that we should apply them to our own flying wherever possible. Of course we’ll never even approach their safety level because part of the fun of our craft is doing things that are inherently more risky. Plus, we’ll never have the money to throw at it. So lets employ those improvements that we can to maximize the safety of our maximum fun.