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Airborne Seafarers

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Anyone who has spent more than a little time in aviation has experienced the loss of a co-worker, or a friend, or a family member, or an acquaintance. I don't think I would have any fingers left if I started counting the people I have known fairly well who have pulled up stakes for warmer climes. But the impact of such a large loss as we have just experienced has made itself felt across a broad stretch of the Canadian landscape.


As the Premier of Newfoundland said in a recent statement, "We are a seafaring people who have for centuries lived from the sea, people risking their lives every day... yet, we will never, ever be able to accept the loss of precious lives to the sea". That is certainly true of the people of Newfoundland, who have been hit hardest by this tragedy, but aviators are truly modern seafarers and have a close bond with each other around the world.


It's impossible for me not to contemplate being onboard Cougar 491 and I feel as though I have been stabbed through the heart. Those in aviation, almost from the very beginning of flight, have engaged in "grave yard humour" wherein we make light of the potential dangers we face and tragedies past, but there's always the momentary silence at the end of levity, as our inherent mortality and shared humanity makes itself felt.


One of the worst things in a situation like this is the "not knowing", and (as pointed out in another thread) anyone in maintenance who has ever watched their ship fly off never to return has felt the proverbial sword of Damocles hanging above them as they fervently hope and pray that nothing they did contributed to, and nothing they could have done would have changed, the final outcome. We all err and it's human nature to shoulder a feeling of guilt like a dark cloud blocking the sun, even when our rational brain tells us we did what we were supposed to do properly and well. It's important for all of us to show support to all involved and reassure those close to the heart of the matter that we're all in the same boat.


Finally we have the passengers, who everyday put their trust in us and our aircraft, knowing we will get them to where they need to be and will get them home when it's time. I think it's harder for the loved ones of the "innocents" in such a calamitous occurrence, as a life in aviation comes with an understanding of what may happen, slim though the chances may be. But for those not in the business, an aviation occurrence is something to be watched on the news, not brought home at night. Newfoundlanders are know around the world for being very hardy people, but also for being close and community minded, a natural development from eking out a joint existence on a huge chunk of granite, and making it one of the most pleasant places to visit I have ever been. I can only imagine the emotional turmoil in many houses in Newfoundland and elsewhere tonight.


Words are just words, but all we have sometimes. I have heard from many people over the last couple of days and I wanted to pass on the shared emotion and hearfelt condolences of people I know around the world who have been touched by our shared loss. We are all in it together.



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By far the best written post on Vertical mag.


Being from the east coast, having lived in St. John's, knowing how close knit these communities are, having friends at Cougar, has left me speechless in the few days. HV took everything I wish I could have said and said it.


This was just way to close to home.

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Hello fellow aviators,


As someone who is at "ground zero" to this enormous tragedy...your good wishes and kind words have helped. In these times of conflicting information and sometimes lack of information reported by the press, it is soooo important to wait for the facts. As written so well by HV... who was the person who gave me my first flying job and start in the industry, it means alot to read that well written take on the situation....thanks HV.....I hope no one has to ever be a part of something so horrible...but please know as an aviation community, everything possible is being done to comfort the familys and friends affected by this. The VIH group has pulled out all the stops as far as co operation and support for the affected families of both passengers and crew members....................... I am very proud to be part of such a tight nit family.

Fly safe all and hug your loved ones every chance you get.







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wow...i usually just read an silently follow the threads on here..but that is the most well written, and moving post ive read to date....well said HV. something like this puts everything going on in our industry, and the world for that matter, into perspective as to what is really important. my deepest, more sincere sympathy to everyone involved in this terrible tragedy.

S. D.

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I'm afraid I made a mistake about the flight number being "911". I received several pm's from people telling me it was actually "991" and now I have been told it was actually "491". It may seem inconsequential but I truly want there to be no element of disrespect and so wish to apologize for the inaccuracy.



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