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Friday, December 11, 2015


I was very fortunate to know and hang out with some really good pilots in the early days.  They instilled good, tough attitudes in me from the very beginning.  Harold Bennett, my first instructor, the WW II bomber pilot, did this no less than any other.  However, we are all susceptible to making mistakes.  You just try to keep them small and to a minimum in number.

Harold made several big ones all in one day.  He had not flown for many years after the war and had to go back through all the training for his instructor rating, etc.  After I had flown with him, he got his instrument rating again.  Instrument flying is something that needs to be practiced regularly to maintain skills.

I'm not sure how much instrument flying Harold had been doing before his fateful day, but heard it was not much.  He agreed to fly a couple guys on a business trip in a Mooney, a plane he had not flown much.  It belonged to one of the other members of the Condor Aero Club.  I think the trip was not exactly a legal charter trip.  You could get away with this kind of stuff, if you claimed you were giving flight instruction to one of the passengers.

One of the problems with business trips is that the weather does not always cooperate.  The men arrived at the Zelionople airport on a very foggy morning.  The airport which was down in a hole, was surrounded by lots of hills. These were obscured by the fog.

Harold probably should have canceled the trip, but must have felt lots of pressure to go.  I can only speculate as to why he would do that.

He took off to the north and failed to out climb a gradually ascending slope to the ride of the departure path.  The Mooney hit the trees and crashed to the ground in flames.  All on board were killed.

I'm not exactly sure when this crash fit into my time table, but it was certainly during my time at Butler Graham Airport.

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