Saturday, February 23, 2013
I hadn't flown with Jack for years. I heard he had health problems and had to stop flying, was working as a mechanic, but hoping to get back in the air. When I remember him though, I think of the two years we flew together in central Oregon. Now Jack is gone, dead of a heart attack at age 38.
I never liked the platitude "He died doing what he loved." People say this when pilots die flying. A helicopter crash is not romantic. It's a scary thing. I don't want to think of the pilots I once knew in fear, spending their last moments fighting the machine they loved. Nobody was there for Jack's last minutes, but I'd like to think, not feeling well, he drifted off to sleep.
It's a strange relationship we have with our pilots. We are warned during our Contracting Officer's Representative classes: don't get too close; it might be a conflict of interest. Don't let the pilot buy you lunch, and don't ride in their vehicles. One overzealous instructor told us we shouldn't even sit at the same table as the pilot in a restaurant. We aren't supposed to accept the give-away hats the helicopter company has for promotion, lest the public think that we awarded them a multi-million dollar contract in exchange for a five dollar ball cap. And yet, these are the people who carry us safely through the sky every day. They bring us back to earth when the weather and terrain seem to suddenly conspire against us. They hold our lives in their hands.
And, more often than not, we truly like them. Jack was one of those, genuinely nice, one of those pilots who never yelled at the crew, who was just happy to be flying.
Goodbye, Jack. Fly safe.