When you’re pilot-in-command of an aircraft, you like to think you’ve really considered all the what-ifs and have a plan for dealing with them. What if the engine fails. What if the flight controls jam. What if we hit a bird. What if there’s a fire on board. What if the landing gear will not extend.
But in all my hours of flying, I have to say I’ve never considered what I would do in this situation.
An elderly man recently diagnosed with a brain tumor leaped to his death from a vintage airplane he rented to celebrate his 88th birthday, officials said Tuesday. Joseph Harold Frost took off his safety belt at 300 to 400 feet, stood up in the open cockpit of the two-seat biplane and went over the side Monday. The pilot tried but failed to wrestle him back into the plane and nose the aircraft upward to force Frost back into his seat.
I feel terrible for the pilot. When you’re in flight training, it’s drilled into your head that as PIC, you’re responsible for the safety of the flight. That means the aircraft and passengers. Since this flight was a birthday celebration for the old guy, the pilot figured he was giving Mr. Frost a fond memory.
Now obviously it’s not the pilot’s fault that Mr. Frost jumped, but it’s gotta be tough returning to the airport alone when you took off with a passenger in the front seat. It sounds like he made a valiant effort to keep Mr. Frost in the plane. But as with any two place open cockpit biplane, there’s not much you can do if the guy up front decides to sky dive without a parachute.