DON'T GAMBLE PLAYERS' LIVES
Like many Americans, athletes are flying a lot nowadays. The airplane has made possible tight schedules in football, basketball, hockey, baseball and some other sports. It has made the intersectional game a commonplace. Parents of college athletes have become accustomed to their sons' aerial expeditions. They have taken it for granted that school authorities employ reliable pilots and that equipment is first-class.
No more. The cruelly unnecessary crash that killed 16 members of the California Poly football team in Ohio a fortnight ago has started a lot of parents asking questions. If someone had asked some of these questions of Cal Poly and Arctic-Pacific Airline officials before the Ohio junket—and had gotten honest answers—there would have been no trip and no tragedy. For example:
Q. Does the line have a good safety record?
A. Before the crash Arctic-Pacific Airlines was fined $16,000 by the Federal Aviation Agency for violations by the pilot of the fatal plane. Two days after the Toledo accident the line's operating certificate was suspended by the FAA for gross disregard of public safety and FAA regulations.
Q. What about its equipment?
A. For this flight Arctic-Pacific provided a two-engine C-46—a World War II plane originally notorious for its "bugs." Manufacture of the C-46 ceased in 1950, and the FAA says the bugs have been "modernized" out. Last year California Poly chartered an identical aircraft from Arctic-Pacific to fly the football team to Montana State. One of that plane's two engines conked out, but luckily the craft did not crash.
Q. What about the pilot?
A. Last July 15 the Federal Aviation Agency revoked the air transport rating of Donald L. J. Chesher for violations of the civil air regulations. Chesher appealed and, pending decision on the appeal, was allowed to resume flying. His decision to take off on the night of October 29 even though there was a fog so dense that no other pilot dared fly would seem to support the FAA judgment of Chesher.
Everyone knows that air travel, like all other travel, has its hazards. There are easy, though often expensive, ways to minimize them. One of the easiest is to fly on scheduled airlines with modern, carefully maintained equipment. Another is to investigate thoroughly the safety record and reliability of a charter firm before engaging it. In the modern air there is room only for first-class airplanes run by first-class people. There is no room at all, in the air or on the ground, for the kind of college official who is willing to gamble with his players' lives.