Monday, May 5, 2014

To Cut a Ribbon then Die

I have often wondered why people flock to auto races, drag raises, or air show to endure the noise and crowds. Is it the speed and skill of the performers or is it the fact that death or serious injury is always lurking nearby ready to pounce with amazing alacrity. In a air show, death or injury is not only lurking but a copilot waiting to take over in an instance.
This weekend an airshow was held at Travis Air Base in Northern California. Eddie Andreini, a 77 year old pilot and veteran of 25 years of air show stunts was killed tried to cut a ribbon--flying close to the ground inverted with a knife attached to the tail slice through a ribbon, like an airborne runner crossing a finish line. His plane instead hit the ground instead, slid upside down for 500 feet and then burst into flames; it took too long for rescuers with fire extinguishers to reach him and he was burned to death.
        No spectators were hurt but one can only imagine the horror felt of witnessing his death. At least and this is a stretch, at least at 77 Eddie had lived a full life as was doing what he really enjoyed doing.
To Cut a Ribbon 
Does one go to an air show to witness acrobatic feats performed in the air
Earthbound mortals watching daring pilots escape if only for a moment gravity's snare
Or do the loops, rolls, stalls and simulated out of control spins heading to the ground
All performed in ear shattering sound
Portend another magnet that today is the day to death cheat
By a pilot with stick in hand, rudders on feet, performing an edge of the envelope feat?
After reading the air show crash headlines in a glance
Then more slowly wondering if the stunt was more of a game of chance
At 77 even in a biplane slower than monoplane or jet
Were his reflexes up to the task or held in check?
Planes do not normally land upside down and then begin to ignite
What took the rescuers to charge to the crash ending flight?
To be burned alive in a cockpit at any age is not a good way to go
Likewise to the spectators witnessing his death at this air show
The pilot has been flying since he was 16
A love of flight, the ages never did wean
We mourn for the pilot, family and friends but still have to be inspired
Any death is always too early, but better not in bed but in flight, a passion he could not retire
 © May 4, 2014 Michael P. Ridley aka the Alaskanpoet

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