“It is not often that a story comes up in the news where the pilot has died and the plane made a successful landing at a nearby airport,” wrote Jonathan Heckman for his Aviation Buzz Web site on April 13. “In most instances, when a small craft loses the pilot, the aircraft is lost as well. However, it became clearer that having the specific skills of an aviator comes in handy, every so often, [after] licensed private pilot Doug White saw himself in a crisis, April 12.
Heckman then quoted from an Associated Press story:
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) – Doug White and his family had just enjoyed a smooth takeoff and were ascending through the clouds when the pilot guiding their twin-engine plane tilted his head back and made a guttural sound.
The pilot, Joe Cabuk, was unconscious. And though White had his pilot’s license, he had never flown a plane as large as this.
“I need help. I need a King Air pilot to talk to. We’re in trouble,” he radioed. Then he turned to his wife and two daughters: “You all start praying hard.” Behind him, his wife trembled. Sixteen-year-old Bailey cried. Eighteen-year-old Maggie threw up.
White, 56, landed the plane on his own about 30 minutes later, coaxed through the harrowing ordeal by air traffic controllers who described exactly how to bring the aircraft to safety. The pilot died, but White somehow managed.
Heckman continued: I’ve had the privilege of meeting many people who have had relatives and friends become pilots. Just about everyone knows at least one pilot, right?
Then, referring to Student Pilot certifications: The most recent number is for 2007: 66,793. If you think that’s dismal, look at 2005: 53,576, the all-time low since the first number on the list, 1978’s 137,032. In 1979 the FAA issued 135,957 student tickets. The following year it issued 102,501, a drop of roughly 25%. 1981 was the last time the total had six figures. You have to admire flight school owners for sticking with such an unpredictable business.
Flying is not a cheap hobby. Today, there are more rules and regulations that pilots have to abide by to receive their licenses. Generally speaking, the process of receiving a private pilot’s license has not changed for decades. The rules of flying have changed significantly though. Like most things related to science, we know a lot more about flight then we did 50 years ago. The FAA knows more about keeping the skies safer for passengers and pilots, and there are new technologies and methods available to pilots that they must learn and demonstrate before receiving a license.
As someone who is passionate for flight, learning to fly is something that I’ve always wanted to do; you have to have the motivation and desire to fly, in order to pursue a license. You do not necessarily have to go after a license to fulfill your dreams – some feel comfortable training up to the solo-flight level; they’re prepared to take over if anything happens to the pilot-in-command. Train up to where you’re comfortable. The point is, having the skills required to fly an airplane is an amazing thing. This recent story is a great example of how that skill set can come in handy.
Jonathan Heckman is the founder of Aviation Buzz. He is a senior in high school, planning to attend an aeronautical university in pursuit of a business degree. He is a student pilot, with 45+ hours logged. He says he has loved aviation since he could crawl.