Some notes on a young man I was just getting to know at Sebring. Steven Fletcher, a highly respected and well-liked aviation photographer from Great Britain, was killed in the crash of an LSA Sunday morning.
We talked and shared stories about our mutual profession at the show. I liked him immediately for his ready, affable smile and genuineness.
Unsubstantiated rumors point to mis-assembly of the photo ship he was riding in as the cause of the takeoff crash. NTSB was on the scene examining the wreckage, so we won't say more until an official cause has been determined, which will likely be some time.
(update: A reader requesting anonymity emailed with his take on the accident: it was the classic stall/spin crash. He speculates the photo plane was already in flight, paralleling the airplane that was launching from the runway. When the photo plane made a 270 degree turn so the photographer could keep the other plane in view, the inside wing stalled and the photo plane was too low to recover. That would make the crash more likely to have been caused by pilot error rather than mis-assembly. )
There are always lessons to derive from tragedy. Whether the photo mission was, as according to witnesses, rushed, or the crash was caused by pilot error, these things usually happen when there's a conflict between mission urgency and mission safety .
---Those two factors should never be at odds. And guess which one always comes first? (Hint: it's not mission urgency)
---When I brief for photo missions, I routinely say, "Safety is first. If I ask you to do something and you don't feel comfortable about it, tell me. The photo is always the least important thing. "
And if misassembly turns out to be the culprit: Preflight, preflight, preflight, people!
---We’ll remember and miss Steve for his warmth and his fine work. The aviation community mourns his loss. We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife and children.
---The photo of Steve was taken at the show by his friend Ken Godin of Flight Design USA, who has helped set up a relief fund for Steve's family. Please make checks payable to: Steve Fletcher Family Fund
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STAMFORD PE9 1XQ
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