I was born and raised a few blocks over from Tweed-New Haven Airport. As a kid my sister and I would walk over there on winter mornings to have a huge pancake breakfast and some hot chocolate back when there was a restaurant housed there. I long ago became accustomed to the sounds of airplanes, both small and somewhat large, soaring overhead, friends on the other end of the telephone asking what the noise was in the background, me completely oblivious to it.
In my mid-thirties I bought a home even closer to the airport, up on "the hill," where the airplanes loomed even larger, closer, louder. There were nights they'd wake me, sounding as if they were just overhead. Around this time a friend of a friend extending an invitation to fly me out to Block Island from Tweed, on his own 4-seater. It was thrilling. But I was also a bit stunned that it was as easy as that, that after X amount of hours logging time in the air you could simply get a pilot's license, buy a plane and start swooping. Did (does) this training include some hours in stormy weather? Shouldn't it?
I'll never forget covering the death of John F. Kennedy, Jr. While it was tragic, even more so given his family history, I recall as the search for even one of the three passengers dragged on wondering why Kennedy was flying there himself, just how skilled he could possibly be, especially in stormy conditions.
Beyond these reference points, I even have a wealthy uncle who got his pilot's license some years back. With three homes (one on Nantucket), several boats and oodles of other toys a plane just wasn't far off. He has wrecked sports cars, terrified his nieces and nephews during the 80's on his boat in Cape Cod, and is now flying the friendly skies. There is a frightening equation that may require some scrutiny: Wealth + Thrill-seeking = (Potential) Disaster. For four people in East Haven on the rainy morning of August 9 the parenthetical was dropped; it was a disaster.
I've no desire to cast dispersions at a man I know nothing about, and who died alongside his son as he flew him to New Haven to continue his college search, Yale on the day's agenda. I do know he had another accident some four years ago or so, but not the intricacies surrounding it. I also know a 13-year-old girl and her 1-year-old sister also perished when his plane crashed into their home, their mother out front, both of them probably playing with toys at the time. And it makes me wonder: When did a plane become a rich man's toy?