Flight safety first forBy Harold Morse
isle pilots, students
Although Hawaii pilots are saddened by the Kennedy plane crash, they are not down on flying.
"It's always unfortunate when someone dies, especially in an airplane," said Hank Bruckner, president, General Aviation Council of Hawaii. "To pilots, you know, we take that a little more to heart."
With the investigation far from complete, one shouldn't speculate on the cause of the crash, he said. Nonetheless, he sees lessons.
"Flying at night can be challenging," he said. He said the crash highlights the need for instrument training. "There are factors that are apparent, and this kind of thing just makes people think and review their own practices."
Monty Edel, who owns the flight school Oahu Aviation, doesn't think pilots are talking a lot about the Kennedy crash. "They all pretty much know what happened and why," he said. "The people that are talking about it are the nonpilots."
In spite of sadness over the crash, both Bruckner and Edel think light plane flying in Hawaii is on the rise.
"As part of their training, they do read a little about these type of things and accidents in general, so it's not such a big surprise or shock," Edel said.
Oahu Aviation student pilot Alan Nakata, 40, a customer service flight attendant for Island Air, recently started flight training.
Has he heard student pilots speak of the Kennedy crash? "At this time, I would say no, but here at work, we talk about it," he said. "Most of the conversation is concerned about the tragedy for the Kennedy family. I have a few that will ask me if this tragedy has affected me in any way or if it bothers me. My response is usually, 'Of course, I feel for the Kennedy family, but as far as what happened ... in this particular tragedy, even the circumstances, hasn't affected me in any adverse way.'"
David Naughton, 27, a Honolulu Community College student pilot, says students are discussing the crash in their safety classes.
Major topics are the weather involved, John F. Kennedy Jr.'s flight experience, his flight planning, lack of flotation devices aboard and his lack of instrument training, Naughton said.
David Huddle, 21, a Honolulu Community College student who already has a private pilot's license, said the Kennedy crash comes up both in and out of class.
"There are a lot of things ... as a private pilot that I won't do until I'm instrument-rated," he said. "You need to be as careful as you can."
Filing flight plans and using available flight-following systems are wise, Huddle said. "You've got to use good judgment because night flying can get real tricky if you're not instrument-rated." Lacking visual cues, a pilot can get disoriented, he said.
Huddle doesn't think the crash will have a negative effect on private plane flying. "If you're interested in flying, you understand these thing happen." It makes pilots want to become as safe as they can, Huddle said.
General aviation nationwide was in decline for a time but has picked up, Bruckner said. State data for 1996, the most recent year for published figures, show 2,561 pilots and 378 flight instructors licensed in Hawaii.