Wandering through the Sunday paper a 200-word AP news item, datelined Williston, caught my eye: 3 Die After Planes Collide Over Florida. Three people died when a Piper and homebuilt airplane met in a clear, sunny Saturday sky over central Florida.
Reading further, the who, what, when, and where confirmed the suspicion of the typical midair. The Piper, with two aboard, had taken off from Williston Muni. The homebuilt’s 73-year-old pilot was heading toward an unknown destination from Ocala, 25 miles to the southeast.
There’s no telling how long the accident would have gone unnoticed had a local woman not investigated what sounded like a gunshot. In a nearby field she found the homebuilt. She called the police, who found the Piper burning in the woods about a half-mile away.
The story offered no “why.” Nor did the story in the Gainesville Sun (source of the photo above). The destinations of both aircraft were unknown, said the sheriff, who added, “There are a lot of unknowns right now.” But at the heart of the matter, these details are unimportant. The accident happened because the pilots surrendered to the reverie of flight.
Reverie is “dreamy thinking or imagining, especially of agreeable things; fanciful musing; daydreaming.” Pilots who steadfastly deny falling victim to it are, perhaps, saying more about their rectitude than their ability to maintain a hyper-aware vigilance during every second of every flight.
We’ve all heard the lectures, we all know the consequences, and we all know that many things lead to reverie, from in-flight entertainment systems and playing with the panel-mounted primary and multifunction video games to great scenery, an empty sky, and a sunny spring Saturday.
Ultimately, we should all know that we are susceptible to it—no matter what type of vehicle we are piloting. How many times have we been covering ground, on two wheels or four, and suddenly sensed a threat and wondered, heart racing: Where did he come from?
If you are reading this, fate, timing, quick reflexes, luck—call it what you will—was with you. For many, however, this question was quite likely their last thought, an unexpected interruption of their joyous moment of reverie. –Scott Spangler