According to the Federal Aviation Administration there was no common denominator between three recent fatal airplane crashes. A 41 year old neurosurgeon and new pilot flew a rented Cessna 172 at night and crashed in the hazardous Lake Tahoe region. An experienced 38 year old pilot with his own airline transport business flew his Piper Navajo Chieftain into the garage of a two story home in Las Vegas. A retired programmer, 60 years old, crashed his 1977 Socata Rallye into the California Highway Patrol building on Highway 101 in Gilroy.
There is no common denominator in age of pilot, level of experience, type of plane or location of the accident. There is an unusual connection, however. All three were among those piloting the aproximately 500 small aircraft that take off and land at the Palo Alto Airport each day. One pilot was headed to Palo Alto, one took off from there and one lived nearby.
This loose connection to the airport in Palo Alto serves to highlight what most pilots take for granted. Accidents do happen; pilots make mistakes and machines break down. Although three fatalities in one month with a connection to a single airport is unusual, it happens. For most pilots flying is still far safer than driving. You wouldn’t give up driving because thousands die every year on America’s highways. No one is likely to park their plane because of a run of fatal crashes. The price of fuel? Now that’s another story.