The series of fatal small plane crashes in Maine over the past few weeks, coupled with one high-profile crash in Alaska that claimed the life of a former U.S. senator, should give us all reason to pause.

No one can say for certain what caused these accidents; they remain under investigation.

But combined with another recent non-fatal mishap on Brandy Pond in Naples in August, we can examine the common denominators and other basic information.

All of the accidents involved experienced pilots and, in at least three of the incidents, experienced co-pilots. In one, a heralded plane mechanic was also on board.

None of the fatal accidents, except the Alaska mishap, involved weather as a contributing factor.

All involved small planes, while piloted by professional pilots, on largely practice or recreational outings.

Only one involved an “experimental” plane. The other aircraft ranged in age and model from brand-new to 1940s-era. Some were seaplanes and others were conventional craft.

Considering these factors we have to wonder if comfort of work or even complacency will be the ultimate cause of these sad accidents.

We feel for the families and friends who lost what in all cases sound like exceptional people with great love for flight and flying and sharing that joy with others  also people who had long and safe records as pilots.
In one case, we know from the available National Transportation Safety Board report that it appears a pilot flying a plane equipped to fly from both land and water landed with his wheels down on water.

The lights indicating those wheels were down were on and, from what a surviving passenger told a Federal Aviation Administration inspector, ” just prior to the airplane making contact with the water the pilot made a verbal expression and immediately after making contact with the water, the airplane went to the left and nosed over.”

We don’t know for sure what caused these accidents, but the deaths of the pilots and passengers involved in these recent crashes should serve as a stark reminder to all of those who do dangerous tasks, either for fun or profession, that a long-safe track record is never the basis to ease up on safety.

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