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Left Coast Pilot – Mortality and a Poker Run

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August 2012

Six years ago, I opened my column with these words:

When I started flying actively about 10 years ago, I was warned that if I stuck with it, eventually I’d have to face the loss of a friend in an airplane crash.

Sad to say, it has happened again. What gives me pause is that this makes the fourth time in a little less than 10 years that a pilot with whom I’ve had a personal connection lost his life in an airplane crash.

The first was Steve Meissel, a fellow volunteer pilot with Liga International (“The Flying Doctors of Mercy”). Steve and three passengers collided with high terrain shortly after departure from Bishop, Calif. (KBIH) in 2003.

Three years later, I was told that Dave Mesenhimer, a co-owner of my flight school, was dead. He had been doing pattern work in an experimental aircraft when one of the wings came off.

Four years after that, we lost Chuck Swanson, a local pilot. Sadly, he died in the most inexplicable of these four accidents. For reasons that were never fully explained, his airplane began orbiting an area in the foothills of the Sierras near Angels Camp, Calif. and continued to circle until it ran out of gas and crashed.

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