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Tragedy of Flight #9525
4/2/2015 3:55:54 PM

By Beverly Gadson-Birch

Every day you hear about folks with fears—fear of height, fear of water and fear of flying to name a few. As for me, I have always been terrified of flying. I knew sooner than later I would have to deal with my phobia. I also knew the cure was bigger than Dr. Phil. So, some years ago, I thought I would tackle my phobia on my own when my son was in Rome and thought it would be a good idea for me to visit him. I thought it would be too since it was all expenses paid and I always dreamed of going there. I cringed at the thought of being in the air for some 12 hours but it was the only way to try and overcome my fear. Either 12 hours in the air would cure me or they would have to bring that big boy down somewhere and let me off.

The first step was to find a traveling buddy so I called my sister who said she would go. Once that was confirmed I would have to apply for a passport. I remember watching the news while filling out the papers for my passport. I had just completed my name when I looked up and saw the first plane flying straight into the World Trade Center in NY …. And then the second plane struck the second tower. It was chaos beyond belief. The tragedy caused the airlines to make major changes in security and the incident changed my life forever. The events of 911 further alienated me from flying. After 911, I knew it would take an act of Congress for me to board another plane. Ironically, the trip to Rome would not have been my first experience flying. I had taken several flights before to Chicago, Florida, California and New York but it was my first trip to Florida that got my adrenalin working overtime. It rained cats and dogs. The lightening was sharp and we were bobbing up and down in a thunderstorm. It was over Savannah, GA, I added a new word to my vocabulary—turbulence.

My friend Ralph was attending Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida and sent for me to come and vacation during his break. I was young and fearless then. Well, until I saw the commuter plane. Ralph had booked. It looked like one of those toy airplanes in comparison to the larger planes that I had traveled on before. My fears were founded when I boarded and had to turn sideways to walk down the aisle to my seat. I knew this was not going to be a good day for me. Anything that small could not be good. I don’t sweat easily but sweat was popping from my forehead. My hands were wet as I fought to buckle my seat belt as ordered. Take-off and landing are my biggest fears. Once I am up in the air I settle down a bit but not on the Florida flight. It was really rough riding.

Ralph’s dream was to become a pilot and he was close to realizing his dream. He would soon graduate from Emby Riddle. I was excited for him. After the Air Force, Ralph moved to Philadelphia and began working on his career as a pilot. His career ended abruptly and his dream turned into a nightmare after a mild heart attack. Although Ralph recovered, no one would hire him which leads me to the co-pilot of Flight #9525. There were signs and medical information that should have prevented the co-pilot from flying. According to CNN news reports, there were medical records indicating that the co-pilot, Lubitz, was suicidal even before he obtained his pilot’s license. A former girlfriend also substantiated that the co-pilot had some issues. The co-pilot had recently seen a doctor for concerns regarding his vision and was told that his cause was psychosomatic. The doctor ruled Lubitz “unfit” for flying. Lubitz also saw a neuropsychologist and told him he was stressed out. It just seemed that there were too many missed opportunities for Lubitz’s condition not to have been reported.

I do quite a bit of flying between Charleston and Houston and by the time I get where I am going I am a nervous wreck. My son on the other hand is very adventurous and nothing seems to bother him. He certainly did not get that from me. Before my flights, he constantly advises me to take a sleeping pill or some “liquor” and go to sleep and forget about it. Before boarding my flight from Houston, he once slipped something in my bottled water at the airport and said “mom, you will not even know you are on a plane. Until this day, I have no idea what it was but he was right. I woke up at Charleston International Airport. Now, the sleeping pill may work but mom doesn’t do “liquor”. I am sure some folks may think I am on “liquor”, crack or some other kind of drug because I am always fighting for some cause.

My heart goes out to the families of those 149 persons who lost their lives aboard Germanwings Flight #9525. It was such a tragic loss of life and perhaps preventable with more stringent investigations into the background of pilots before and after licensing. I am sure the intentional crashing of Flight #9525 will be another event that will transform how pilots are screened. Future aircraft design may even include a “potty” in the cockpit. Why wasn’t that thought of before? There should be two pilots in the cockpit at all times.

Well, I guess I am going to have to do some more driving this year or my son will have to do more flying. I will take my chances on the road and where the road doesn’t carry me, I just won’t go. I am just not feeling the air right now. You never know who is sitting in the cockpit but I know who is sitting in my Jeep—me. See y’all on the road this summer. Beep, beep! Watch out for the road runner.


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