The phone rang. It was a
flying buddy calling from Daytona Beach.
"Have you read Aero-News today?"
"Dude, the ISP tech just left my lab. I have been off the
internet for four long days. Why, what's up?"
"You're not going to like this. Don Wylie of AST augered
"Paul [a mutual friend] flew with him. Hell, had dinner and all.
He's taking it pretty hard."
The next thing I thought was that Rick and the others who were
on Don's flying version of an all-star team at D. W. Hooks Memorial
must be devastated, disconsolate. Disoriented, even -- something
they weren't, in an airplane.
So the first item I wound up reading when my net was restored
was Aero-News. I guess I was hoping the story wasn't true. It was,
of course. [Expletive].
In this business, people you know occasionally die. It's the
downside of the deal we each make with the four winds, with the
machine, with Lady Luck, with our Maker. Sometimes the dice come up
I didn't know Don Wylie, but I knew
of him. He did send me a nice note after we ran a story I wrote on
a seminar one of his guys, Rick Gillenwaters, gave at AOPA this
year. He didn't have to do that. The sad fact is that lots of the
people . This accident hit me right as I was working on a piece
that dwells a bit on another man who died doing what he loved --
flying. Don, and his student William Eisenhauer, went in in one of
the T-34s that Don's company used both for "air combat experience"
flying and for upset and recovery training.
There's going to be a lot of second-guessing and a lot of
grandstanding coming as a result of this mishap. The best thing
that we can do is note that as a pilot, Don was as good as they
get; the company's T-34s are supposed to have had the strongest and
most costly of the spar repairs, and were cleared for aerobatic
flying; and in time, we'll know a lot more as the NTSB investigates
and the FAA, no doubt, reviews its past work in the light of what
the NTSB learns.
The responsible thing for us to do is to wait, and to honour the
memory of Don Wylie, fighter pilot to the end, and William
Eisenhauer, whose "eyes lit up" over flying. Our family has sent
two brothers to Valhalla; let us close ranks behind them, learn
what there is to be learned, and keep flying.
I bet they would like that.