Allegheny Airlines Flight 853 memorial

9 September 1969

London, IN

What happened to me on my attempt to re-create Bob Carey's flight on the 30th anniversary of the crash

Pilots are always having to make decisions. Sometimes, we want to do things, but our better judgement tells us not to, and that can be a problem. If you chicken out of something, you never know whether you would've made it, and that can cause you to make less careful decisions in the future.

I didn't make this flight, even with all the build-up I'd given it, and all the news stories and all the interviews and all the planning that had gone into it. I've found that it's never one thing you can point to that can sway your decision, but a lot of little things that in themselves might not be much, but collectively add up to a no-go.

I woke up on Thurday morning with a bad feeling about the flight. After all the talking to myself that I'd done, trying to convince myself that I would be doing the right thing, it just didn't feel right. As the day went on, I looked at how perfect the weather seemed, with even the "required" northwesterly wind! Well, as it got later, that wind got stronger and blusterier, and clouds started to form. These were the kinds of clouds that most people think are puffy and friendly, but any pilot will tell you that when a front goes through, and you've strong blustery surface winds and cumulus at 5000', you're going to get bounced around. The wind didn't seem that strong, but at the airport, it was stiffening the windsocks straight out, and it was from the west. That meant that I'd have some decent turbulence for the whole flight, and pretty much a dead 18-20kt crosswind on landing at Brookside. That is out of the plane's capabilities, and certainly out of mine, so I called it.

I was glad, because on the way home, I drove past Indianapolis International Airport. I watched as a DC9 came in on final, bobbing and weaving like a cork in a toilet. Those passengers got one heck of a ride on final, and at one point, the nose got so high that I thought the pilot had actually started a go-around! I would've been facing something like that in a 140! I made the right call.

My apologies to those whose hopes got dashed, but mine were first on that list, I guarantee you.