Saturday, March 12, 2011

Kyle and Amanda

I can't sleep tonight, because two of my heroes are in hospital burn units. Kyle and Amanda Franklin were performing their famous Pirated Skies act at the Brownsville Air Fiesta when what seems to be a catastrophic engine failure prompted a forced landing and caused the airplane to be consumed by fire.

Amanda was on the wing when the problem started, but was able to get back into the plane (according to reports----video I've seen doesn't make me feel as certain that she did) before the impact. Kyle was not able to get her out. They were both burned on 60-70% of their bodies and as of this writing it sounds as though they are in stable, but critical condition.

For those not familiar with Kyle and Amanda, they are the latest generation of an airshow family both ahead of its time and impacted by tragedy. In 2005, their fathers Bobby and Jimmy were killed in a mid-air collision during an airshow in Canada. Kyle and Amanda, who had been teenage sweethearts, later married and soon afterwards their wingwalking act debuted. Their passion for aviation brought them together and kept them in the family business.

These two represent everything that is good about my generation of pilots. They're young, good-looking, they handle their celebrity with grace, and they've reinvented the art of wingwalking for a new generation. They're accessible superstars at the top of their craft. In my opinion, any pilot who doesn't fantasize about doing what they do for a living needs to re-evaluate his or her career choice/hobby. Two accomplished pilots, husband and wife, teaming up to travel the country like modern barnstormers and bring aviation to the masses. What role models!

I don't even know them well enough to call them acquaintances (although Amanda gracefully accepted my Facebook friend request some years ago and is quite accommodating to her fans), and yet I feel like my brother and sister are lying in those hospital beds tonight. Pilots who are passionate about their craft and passionate about life are kindred spirits like that, and I tend to take stuff like this personally.

We're all praying for a full recovery for both of them. In the mean time, the best way I can pay tribute to them and all of our fallen brothers and sisters is to keep doing what I do. Keep taking aviation seriously. Keep trying to get others to feel that passion. Keep leading by example and being the best, safest pilot I can be. As an aviator, I benefit from the legacy of a long line of people just like Kyle and Amanda Franklin. Aviation is an incredible community. We see it over and over again, in both our triumphs and our defeats.

God bless you two, and may you both heal quickly and completely.

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