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Flight Safety: The Military Has a Lot to Tell Us

I belong to an aviation family. My dad flies airplanes,my brother flies airplanes,my uncle flew airplanes, my sister was in an airplane once, and I represent that errant gene that went off to fly helicopters … the only true aircraft.


July 18, 2007
By Geoff Goodyear

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I belong to an aviation family. My dad flies airplanes,my brother flies
airplanes,my uncle flew airplanes, my sister was in an airplane once,
and I represent that errant gene that went off to fly helicopters … the
only true aircraft. Almost all of this aviation experience has been in
the civilian world. My only exposure to the military aviation
environment was listening to my uncle Denny tell stories of his
experiences during World War II.

He
was the only one in our family who had a sense of the unique challenges
and risks that face military pilots. Newfoundland was still a part of
England when the war broke out, which occurred on the morning of the
day my uncle was to get his high school examination results. When asked
to explain his hasty departure for the European theatre, he said he was
more concerned about my grandfather’s reaction to his exam results than
about what Hitler might do to him.

A whole squadron of
Newfoundlanders eventually ended up flying the de Havilland Mosquito
for the RAF.Why the British would let a bunch of us fly together under
war conditions is beyond me. I am sure they had enough to worry about
without bringing this upon themselves.

The airplane was made out
of plywood and balsa, had two Rolls-Royce Merlin engines, and in its
day was the fastest airplane of the war.My uncle rarely recounted the
specifics of battle (he flew the night fighter version), but took great
delight in describing flying at eye level over the greyhound race
tracks in rural England to watch all the dogs leap panic-stricken into
a crowd of screaming spectators. He could only assume they were
screaming, of course, but a throng of people with mouths agape and
scurrying for the exits was usually a good indication.

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It was
all bad enough moving about the skies at night with very limited
instrumentation, but add to this that everyone was armed to the teeth
and had itchy trigger fingers. Our own day-to-day hazards pall by
comparison. There was no ILS, no GPS, no approach radar, and if you
made it back to base, there was always the night landing without
lights. Yes, children, you heard me right: Turning on landing lights in
this environment would be the same as painting a bull’s-eye on a moose
in November. You would not likely survive the experience.


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