"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The definition of tragedy . . .

. . . is this. The whole situation is just terrible. An F-18 pilot, trying at the last minute to save himself, ends up killing four people - three generations - instead. I can't begin to imagine how absolutely shattered Mr. Yoon must be. That he's shown such grace and forgiveness to the man who inadvertently took his family away - to the point of asking others to pray for him - is a testament to his character. I hope and pray that this grace carries him through the nightmare he's now experiencing. As for the pilot, please make a little room in your prayers for him too. He's alive; I'm sure his own family is grateful for that, as it could easily have gone the other way. But you can be sure that he'll carry the guilt for this accident for the rest of his life. He followed his training in the emergency, and innocent people were caught in the crossfire. His flight career is probably over. In his own way, he too is shattered. Mr. Yoon and his family should dominate our thoughts; but the as-yet unnamed fighter pilot, who signed up to serve his country, deserves to be there as well. A few other items:

  • As bad as this was, it could have been worse. By the sounds of it, the pilot waited until the absolute last possible second before ejecting. Witnesses say the approach of his aircraft was silent, which makes it sound like a dual-engine failure. To my knowledge, the procedure for that emergency is ejecting as soon as possible. He waited, trying to steer his dead bird into an empty canyon. He bailed out so low that witnesses clearly saw it, which left very little time for his parachute to deploy and risked slamming into the earth with a half-deployed chute. There will be an investigation into what the pilot did and did not do during this emergency, but he did what he could to minimize the damage he'd cause.
  • Speaking of the investigation, I've been mildly irritated by some of the news reports ominously announcing that "the military will have jurisdiction over the crash site." Well yes, for a couple of reasons. One, there are sensitive, classified components on the aircraft, and it's not only a responsibility, but a legal mandate, for the military to retain control of them. Second (and in my mind, more importantly), the military aviation community is extremely good at investigating and determing the cause of its own mishaps. Sadly, this is because in spite of our best efforts and training, mishaps still regularly happen, and it gives our investigators a lot of practice. But the final reports are always highly detailed, and a wide scope of causal factors are examined (down to what the mishap aircrew ate and drank for the seven days prior). They pull no punches and bruise many egos. When it's all said and done, however, military mishaps reports can tell you exactly what happened, and are distributed as widely as possible around the aviation community so that pilots can learn from the mistakes of others. So stop making it sound like there's something fishy going on there, CNN and local cable news; the military's doing its job, will do it thoroughly, and disseminate the results so that we can prevent this loss of life in the future.
  • (redacted)

Finally, my thanks to everyone who called me and Bree to make sure we were alright (there were a lot of you, which is why some haven't heard from me yet; that, and I'm out of town doing training which takes up 26 hours of each day). We're good; please think of Mr. Yoon, his family, and the pilot instead.

ADDENDUM: to the blogger who posted as I believe Gary's Mom, thank you for your comment and telling your story. Let me say that I'm very sorry for your loss, and I thank you for sharing your thoughts here. I don't know the circumstances of the crash as I was barely starting flight school when it happened; I can only hope that the conclusions of the investigation were taken to heart to avoid more loss of life. And I hope that the new Joint Strike Fighter, whenever it comes on line, doesn't have the bugs of the F-18. I'm sure you had a great deal of pride in him and what he did. I will remember him, and keep in my prayers for all the other aviators I've known who died in the line of duty. Semper fi.


Norah said...

I feel so sad for all concerned with this tragic accident. Especially the family, and also the Pilot. He will live with this for the rest of his life, and i know he would have done everything to avoid this collision.
Monday was my Son's birthday. What has that do do with anything you may be wondering? Well my son Gary was killed in an F/18 collision on the 21st of July 2004.
Too many F/18's have been having problems, look into it and you will see, especially in 2004 and 2005. Maybe the F/18's should have been taken out of service years ago, and in so doing save many lives that were lost before their time.

Gary's Mum

Bree said...

Actually, I would punch you, and then I would kick you, just for good measure.

Lois said...

I'm confused by Bree's comment...what is she referring to?