Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Air tragedies


I just learnt that veteran aerobatic pilot Tom Moon died this morning in a plane crash at Temora Airport this morning. Tom was a friend of my Dad (who died in Temora 10 years ago this month).

Temora - Graham with aero friends

Dad (first on left), Tom (3rd from left). 1995

Temora Airport was used as RAAF flying school during the 1940s. My father, a great aviation enthusiast, organised a huge reunion event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the school. In these later years, Temora Airport became a favoured spot for aviation and aerobatic enthusiasts to hold events, and Dad became an integral part of the activities that led to Tom Moon and David Lowy setting up the Temora Aviation Museum on the airfield.

Dad tragically died of a heart-attack at the beginning of 1999 ahead of the opening of the museum and of his much-anticipated 6oth birthday holiday in America. At his funeral, David Lowy made an aerial overpass and honour roll as we exited the church.

GAW Park dedication - Grant, Kylie, Michael, Stacey

In September 2001, a park was named for my father at the airport. A large contingent of the family were on hand for the dedication ceremony.

GAW Park dedication 003

That week was extremely eventful for me. I was living in Seattle at the time and flew back for the occasion, and was due to fly back on September 12 … I think you can see where this is going.

With all planes grounded following the events of 9/11 - and it being already 9/12 in Australia as it unfolded, I remember sitting in a cafe in Darlinghurst trying to work out how and when I was going to get back to Seattle. I struck up a conversation with a man at the next table, an American also "stranded" by events. In the course of our chat he asked how my studies had led me to working for Microsoft in Seattle. I mentioned that I'd completed a Masters degree in Cognitive Science some years before - he raised an eyebrow at this and then formally introduced himself as Elkhonen Goldberg, student of Alexander Nuria and (as I learnt later) a substantial figure in the world of cognitive neuropsychology.

I finally got back to the US on the 16th in all the mess of airport security tightening that was shocked into being that week. I remember queuing up at Sydney Airport and having my toenail clippers and other sharpish instruments confiscated, and then sitting down on my United Airways jet and being given metal knives and forks for our meals!

When I got into work the next morning, the first person I spotted was Larry Engel, general manager of our division. He was incredibly shocked to see me mounting the stairs . As I recall, Larry was a New Yorker and had been hit hard by the recent events. "What are you doing back here? If I was you I would have stayed in Sydney and had my house packed up and sent back … I've been up all night looking for a job in Australia!"

1 comment:

  1. Dear Mike, sorry to hear about your loss. I did aeros for a short time in Pitts and loved every minute. They would not allow me to fly on the wing for my 40th birthday which I didn't take too kindly to. These sky explorers are special. I'm glad you knew one and I share your loss. Eedra