Now, when it is too late, everyone seems galvanized into action. Secretary Volpe has ordered an investigation of the charter airplane industry and of the FAA's methods of policing it. (There are about 130,000 planes in the U.S.; the FAA has about 1,500 inspectors, of whom half are constantly involved with the 3,000 commercial airline planes. With such minimal potential for surveillance, it is rare that a violator is actually caught unless—like a man driving without an auto license—he is involved in an accident.) All of the planes owned by Richards have been grounded. The company has been fined $50,000. The license of Golden Eagle Aviation has been revoked. Suddenly there are many reports about close calls experienced by other teams on charter flights—of feathered props and smoking engines and operators working without proper certificates or maintenance. As Volpe said, "Sometimes it takes an accident of this type to tighten things up."
There are still the dead and the maimed to be remembered, but life does go on, and there are many things to be tightened up. Last week Wichita State appointed another football coach, Bob Seaman, who had been one of Ben Wilson's assistants. And on Sunday night, in a mournful meeting behind closed and locked doors, those who survived elected to continue their schedule of games this season, beginning Oct. 24. It seemed a grim and unsettling prospect to face the weeks of practice and competition before cheering spectators with a team so decimated, with a lineup so filled with the spirits of dead boys. Yet perhaps the painful sight of watching Wichita State play football again so soon is simply an extension of a tragedy that has already come to be almost too bitter to be believed.