Perspective on a suicide

February 19, 2010 by Craig Fuller

This week, the aviation community suddenly found itself at the center of the troubling issue of suicide in America. As tragic and dramatic as this one suicide in Austin proved to be, those who influence and make public policy have a responsibility to keep this event in perspective.

Each year, there are more than 30,000 suicides in America. Even more disturbing, the Centers for Disease Control estimates that there are 25 suicide attempts for every suicide death. The figures, and the human suffering they represent, are overwhelming.

But the fact is that pilots are a remarkably healthy group of individuals, both physically and psychologically. We have medical examinations on a regular basis. We report the medications we use and the ailments we have to certified medical examiners. The FAA even determines what medications are allowable for pilots to take.

Sadly there are exceptions to every rule, as the tragic events in Austin demonstrated. Even so, an examination of aircraft accidents over the past 20 years found fewer than two suicides per year involving aircraft. Compare that to the 750,000 annual suicide attempts, and it seems evident that the aviation community contributes little to this national problem.

Still, there is already speculation about what we must do to ensure that images like those we’ve seen from Austin are never seen again. As always, the aviation community remains committed to protecting the freedom to fly while maintaining the highest levels of safety and security. We believe strongly that any response to this terrible incident must be appropriate, reasonable, and effective.

Let’s make sure that any examination of public policy is thoughtful and any resulting proposals are well-considered. The response to this isolated event must recognize that America is home to 600,000 pilots who annually fly more than 26 million hours using general aviation and who daily make tremendous contributions to the nation using aircraft for business, humanitarian, commercial, charitable, and personal missions.

  • Michael McCormik, CFI

    I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Fuller; however, when was the last time that “those who influence and make public policy” ever kept anything in perspective? This will be a fight as always to keep the GA community from being punished and futher regulated with the ultimate goal of the “do gooders” to ground us all! We need to get started now to avert this. All pilots should start the dialoglue to keep the general public educated. Additionally, we must inform our legislators of our will to reject any “Knee Jerk” reactions to this unfortunate event.

  • http://aopa robert t

    No doubt not only the left but the right as well will rush to punish all pilots over this one senseless act. There has been a group in
    government waiting for this since 9/11 to push more controller and oversight of GA and know they have it. Please work hard with
    the aviation community and community as a whole to be sure we don’t loose even more of our precious freedom over it.

  • Jerry Olson

    We also need to urge our politicians to refrain from political grand-standing in situations like this. Within a couple hours of this tragedy, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee from Houston was on the local TV stating she was going to start a congressional investigation into how a small plane carrying “50 gallons of jet fuel” was allowed to be flying in that area. Clearly, she had very little knowledge of the aircraft or the facts in the situation. She appeared to be doing little more than insitting fear in peoples minds so she could protray herself as a savior and prevent this from happening again. The last thing this country needs is politicians making irresponsible statements like this in these type of situations.

    I believe we really need to get our politicians to try to focus on the root cause(s) when these tragedies occur. Clearly the airplane had no more to do with this than the truck did that Timothy McVee used to blow up the Mora Federal building in Oklahoma City. These were nothing more than the methods the individuals chose to use. In this situation, it’s pretty obvioius if the airplane hadn’t been available to Mr. Stack, he would have just used some other method; such as a truck, a car, or even strap explosives to his belt and walk up to the IRS building. We need to have a thorough investigation into the root causes of this situation to identify what drove Mr. Stack to take this action. Did he have some form of mental condition, was he a radical like Timothy McVee, was he somehow driven by a string of circumstances to do this, or was this a combination of these and other factors? We must understand the root causes or we will never prevent tragedies like this from happening.

  • Bruceton

    This was just a guy who was really, really upset with the government, and of course a little wacked out. Anyway, consider the body count here: two including the pilot. I can do way more damage with my car. McVeigh did way more damage with a van full of fertiziler explosives. Small planes are no threat. People need to understand that this is the world we live in now. So deal with it.

  • Chris Davis

    I work in the building next door and felt the impact of the aircraft. I also fly a Piper Arrow based out of Georgetown.
    I am happy to report local news reporting in the Austin area has been very fair to General Aviation. A radio host
    this morning pointed you don’t need an airplane, as a molotov cocktail is believed to have burned down the Texas
    Governor’s Mansion just a couple of years ago.

  • Andy

    I agree with the statements of the previous respondents. However, I think Mr. Fuller’s piece misses the point. In my view, this act by Mr. Stack was an act of domestic terrorism. Even if you disagree with that characterization, the event demonstrated the danger of 50 gallons of petroleum distillates delivered by air to a target. Yes, only one person on the ground died, but the building sustained considerable damage. Beyond the physical loss, the ability to disrupt the operations of government of business entities is apparent.

    I would not agree with anyone who would argue GA should be curtailed as a result of this incident. However, we face a significant issue in the GA community. Unreasonable and ignorant people will panic, but reasonable, thinking people will recognize the now-apparent risks. I think we’ll need to bring more to the table than “pilots as a group are a responsible group.” I think we, and AOPA, need to recognize the reality of the danger posed. Otherwise, we risk losing credibility. The danger to GA, of course, is that publicly accepting the danger of a light a/c in the hands of a determined terrorist/nut/fool risks conceding the point on needed restrictions. Mr. Fuller will have his hands full.

  • Lisa Martin

    We can’t regulate all possibility of death. I can only think of two examples of suicide, using an aircraft as means, hurting anyone but the aircraft occupant. I am horrified at the prospect of ignorant, bored politicians getting ahold and running on new regulations that aren’t going to stop crazy people anyway. The ONLY people that regulations regulate are honest, law-abiding people. It’s too bad the man succeeded in his suicide attempt. If he had lived through it the law would be after him. Since he died, the Feds will be after us. Thank God Texas can keep it in perspective, but Texas tends to have more sense than much of the rest of the nation. I think it is terribly sad that IRS employees that are just trying to keep a job are the targets of domestic terrorism. It is sickening that this man also lit his house on fire, with his wife and child inside. There are terrible consequences to his stupid, selfish, psycho action…and we (GA pilots) will pay too…just so some busy-body can pat his or her self on the back for “doing something” about it.

  • Elvan

    I agree with President Craig Fuller. And now we can look for ways to improve the image of General Aviation by volunteering for organizations like Angel Flight or Civil Air Patrol. This would allow the general population to become more accquainted with the service that we provide to the community.

  • Steven Swartz

    Interestingly here in Boston, the local loudmouth bufoon who proudly goads people to do drastic things against the governement — and gets away with it because his advertisers love his numbers — actually tried to distance right-wing talk radio as not being a cause of Stack’s dissatisfaction. When of course, the constant stream of invective against goverment in general and the current administration, is exactly what he and his co-broadcasters do 24/7,. The airplane was Stack’s tool. Who really knows what his motiviation was?

  • john

    Lets all of us in GA keep reminding and educating those who are not, ESPECIALLY Those in power! Airplanes, guns, bombs, etc, do not kill anyone! People do the killing so regulations and laws do absoultely nothing to stop people who are determined to kll themselves! Just learn what you can by it and do not let the Feds create more useless jobs over it!

  • Steven Washer

    There are always a few, even within our own community, who will sell you out for a song. You can spot them, though. They’re the ones in the corner cowering in the fetal position under reams of regulations, screaming at the top of their lungs that “something must be done!” after every untoward event in life. To them, the purpose of a tragedy is to grab more power for themselves. But because they live in total fear, they never get enough power to satisfy themselves.

    This particular tragedy is a no-win scenario. If you resist these cheap dime store commissars, you look like a domestic terrorist. There’s no way to win this type of battle by confronting it because that’s exactly what they want.

    The only answer is to ignore it. Don’t add fuel to their firestorm of hate, shame, fear and guilt. Make a calm statement, as Mr. Fuller has done quite nicely, then back slowly away towards the door with both hands showing. They may snarl and bark at you, but you’ll get out alive if you keep your wits about you and don’t get emotional.

  • Kevin

    I think that it is important for AOPA to react to incidents such as the one in Austin, but I think that Mr. Fuller’s statement is misguided. Unfortunately for the GA community, this incident was not just a suicide. Based on the preliminary facts available, the individual involved attempted to use his aircraft to kill other Americans (had he wanted to simply end his own life, he could have crashed into a field or a lake). I agree with the recognition of GA’s commitment to safety and security, but to simply label this as a mere suicide is irresponsible and takes away from the gravity of the incident. This was an unfortunate incident for the GA community and is likely to have repercussions. AOPA should make sure that any steps taken in response to this incident are reasonable, but should also not undercut its position by dismissing the gravity of the incident.

    Disappointed in AOPA.

  • Gary

    I can see it coming already:

    Three part signed form for a criminal and psychological history statement – right and left thumb prints – and a seven day waiting period before you can rent or buy an airplane.

  • Mike

    To pretend that this was merely a suicide is either disingeniuous or completely misses the obvious. Mr. Stack intentionally used his airplane as a weapon in order to attack the IRS in Austin. Yes, it’s an isolated case, and a knee-jerk reaction like requiring everyone to file a flight plan will do nothing, but this was NOT simply a suicide and to pretend otherwise dilutes our message IMHO. Regardless, let’s hope that as Mr. Fuller says: “…..any response to this terrible incident must be appropriate, reasonable, and effective.”

  • Clifford Smith

    I am a US Citizen living Honduras and I was sickened at the uninformed opinions of the newscasters ,concening the crash in Texas ,discussing what should be done about the problem. Much of what is wrong with America today is the irresponsible reporting by the media and publidity seeking politicians like Senator Nelson of Florida who remarked that General Aviation is Ä Ticking Time Bomb ¨and even drafted a letter to other Senators and Congressmen suggesting something be done about the problem.
    I have an opinion as to what should be done about the problem. Don´t watch networks who persist in this sort of dishonesty and come election time vote all encumbents out of office.

    Clifford Smith

  • Pylot

    “the fact is that pilots are a remarkably healthy group of individuals, both physically and psychologically” — what about the pilot who was part of the Geico Skytypers who lied on his medical certificate application and killed himself and destroyed an airplane. it also explains why some of the pilots climbing out of those flight decks are overweight. yep, healthy alright.

    “we report the medications we use and the ailments we have to certified medical examiners” — i can’t even begin to tell you how many pilots don’t report things to their medical examiners. there are those who think their condition is not relevant or disqualifying or think the drugs they’re taking is approved. when was the last time your ame or the faa gave you a list of medicines and medical conditions you are required to report? like never.

    “the aviation community remains committed to protecting the freedom to fly while maintaining the highest levels of safety and security” — because pilots who take off into low visibility conditions and crash their airplanes and kill innocents has safety as their number one priority. it also explains why some airports require security badges while others don’t. security by perception and obscurity is really the name of the game. i even know folks who are required to abide by security badge rules who think it’s useless and pointless. yep…a community that is committed alright.

    fuller, maybe you should walk around the neighborhood and breath in some fresh air and see what’s really going on out here before you make these blanket political generalizations that have nothing to do with REALITY!

  • Mike

    A number of media reports seemed to harp on the fact that the pilot didn’t file a flight plan. Of course he wasn’t required to, and if he had, I seriously doubt that he would have filed one saying he planned to crash into the IRS building. This just illustrates one more time that most media types have no idea what GA flying is about and can easily jump to the conclusion it should just be prohibited or highly regulated. I wish Mr. Fuller had addressed this in his statement. You can bet some politicians will soon be spouting off about it to get some headlines.

  • Joe

    Good proactive action Mr. Fuller, however I expect the media and politicians to go nuts as usual. Unfortunately airplane accidents lead news .. “If it bleeds, it leads.” How many homicides are attempted each year using cars and trucks?

  • Bob H

    Maybe this time it was a general aviation aircraft but the same could happen just as easily with commerical airline aircraft and a despondent pilot. Many airline pilots have business dealings on the side. What makes an airline pilot any more sane than a private pilot when they are under duress at home. Any kneejerk action should apply to commercial aviation the same as general aviation. Actually there should be no action. The airplane was just a means at hand. If he did not have an airplane he would just have found another means to his end with equal or more loss of life.

  • Leonel

    I also agree with President Craig Fuller but maybe we need to look at what triggered this reaction from the start. Had this been dealt with from the beginning with the IRS handling this individual’s needs and performing their duties all this could have possibly been avoided. Being that this individual was a pilot I’m to assume he must have passed all physical and mental examination so we are talking about a intelligent and rational individual. Someone who had to of been a cool, calm, collective person. Now what drives a person to loose all hope and sight of reality. IRS? I can see that happening, not to put blame on them as a whole but they might need to monitor their own agents that abuse their powers within their organization that irresponsibly handle situations carelessly to drive an individual to this extreme.

  • Jim

    Pilots transcend the spectrum of society and as such the ills that fall on society affect Pilots as well. An individual willing to use any means of destruction possible to inflict death on Americans can (and will) do just that. It is very unfortunante that Joseph Stack used an airplane, but, we have seen similar and worse damage inflicted by individuals using weapons, cars and trucks, and even their own hands. We need to be proactive as a group to make sure that the ideas that Fuller has put forth are heard and understood so that the correct response to this issue is addressed. 2 suicide’s in 20 years using airplanes is far from a pattern that needs to be dealt with in a legislative manner. Let’s focus on the study of the cause that would make someone intentionally take their own lives as well as the lives of others.

  • Bob

    I believe there’s no excuse for Stack’s actions. But perhaps we can use this event to discuss a possibly related issue. We don’t yet know whether Stack was suffering from depression, though that may be likely. The NIMH states “that 90 percent of people who kill themselves have a diagnosable mental disorder, most commonly a depressive disorder or a substance abuse disorder.”

    The FAA doesn’t make it easy for pilots to seek help for depression. Admitting you feel depressed can seem like an admission of personal failure in the first place, let alone that doing so may cost you your ticket.

    So to keep flying, pilots may just not seek treatment. Or if diagnosed they may refuse medication. Or they may self-medicate with alcohol or illegal drugs which compounds the problem. Even if pilots do seek treatment and are honest in reporting their condition to their AME, that sets off a lengthy process that might lead to a special issuance, but that is not guaranteed. Even then, the AOPA Medication Database shows that all of the listed antidepressant medications are currently “not allowed” by the FAA. So it appears that if you get help for depression you cannot legally fly. Which is depressing in and of itself.

    We’re all best served by continuing to prevent those persons with major depressive disorder or other major mental disorders from acting as pilot in command. However, there has to be a better way to help those pilots with mild depression (chronic or episodic) by determining a course of treatment that will allow them to continue to safely, and legally, fly.

  • Ed Clift

    It was kinda creepy as I was launching home to Minneapolis from Memphis in my Piper Dakota around the same time yesterday as our nutcase was “flying” to his eternal destiny out in Austin. Where is the “reporting” regarding root causes? How come the media wasn’t too interested in the type of truck McVee used back in OKC??

    Godspeed to the injured both physically and otherwise >>


  • Don

    I hope that our AOPA President will immediately call and request airtime with FoxNews Neil Cavuto. Neil, who is normally pretty level headed, fell right in with “Crazy Mary” Schiavo who is recommending that we control crazy pilots by the insurance companies requiring a $3,000,000 (yep, three million) policy, which would then give them more incentive to ask us pertinent questions like “Are you crazy?”, which would, of course, force all of the crazies out of the air! Wow! Brilliant! Only problem is that it most probably would not have filtered the guy in Texas, Joe Stack, who, according to his friends seemed like an all round great guy. A determined person on a bicycle and a back pack can wreak havoc if they are determined – those damned Schwinn’s are dangerous, esp the antique ones!

  • Michael Sheridan

    Please, lets not try to “spin” this, Mr. Fuller. This wasn’t just a suicide. It wasn’t just about a despairing individual killing himself, one of the thousands each year, as you attempt to imply. This was a person full of hate, with a specific target (an arm of the US Government), specifically trying to kill others (which he did), cause massive damage (which he did), and cause terror (which he did).

    In your haste to spin this, you actually distort the truth: this was an act of domestic terrorism. Lets not play PR games with it.

  • Ed Clift

    PR games? Specifically, where has the truth been distorted Michael?? Please clarify your construal of Mr Fuller’s statement somehow minimizing or whatever. Please shed more light on your “point” >>

  • James Cavanaugh

    This is exactly the time when I realize how important my AOPA dues are.

  • Joyce Hanmer

    I was appalled by the segment (very negative attitude toward pilots and aviation) aired on Neil Cavuto on Fox News on Friday, Feb.19. A very biased government type as a so called ‘expert’ calling for stringent mental evaluation. I trust that the aviation community can bring some sense to the public discussion about this sad event.

  • Ed Clark

    As a pilot and AOPA member I worry about how this event will be perceived. It concerns me that our organization is characterizing this as a suicide when in fact it was a murder/suicide. We need to be forthright about that or be seen as spin doctors due to our seeming selfish concern about the potential for overzealous regulation of GA. There is no denying that this misguided, unstable person was targeting the IRS and used his plane as a weapon to end his own life while visiting vengeance upon them. We have to be willing to call it what it is out of respect for the injured, killed and their friends and family.

  • Walter Hawkins

    Please allow me to comment, as a Christian ministry that I am involved in deals with the depressed, as well as other forms of mental illness. Since most people have no experience with mental illness, this makes them “experts” on the topic? This was a great human tragedy – the airplane was just a tool used by the perpetrator. By the way, to my liberal friends in the blogosphere, you never miss a chance to call anybody who disagrees with the current government a “hater.” When Bush was in office, it was “open season”…oh, that’s right, we do have a double standard!

    AOPA 01267704

  • http://none Larry Goldburg

    The majority of people I have met who are involved in ANY phase of aviation [world-wide] are flaming egotists/egoists!
    This suicide will raise many questions related to the training/screening of pilots, and the people in The Industry will raise hell about how highly ‘screened’ are potential students, the tremendous amount of training involved & the extreme experience level of most folks who are around flying machines, in what ever capacity . . . . . . . .

    My very considered opinion, after over fifty (50!) years of ‘professional’ involvement in flight ops is: pilots are a-dime-a-dozen. If you’ve got the time & the money, almost anyone can become a pilot!

    “Training” is based upon merely ‘teaching-to-the-test’ ~ whatever minimum is needed to pass the FAA scrutiny.

    Experience? Bull-shit! Ever heard of ‘P-51′ time? That refers to Parker 51 (ink pen) records — as fictious as hell!

    And/or the guy/gal who can actually authenticate his/her 2,000 hrs. of flight time? Bull-shit! Tthey’re probably flight instructors, trying to “build their hours” so they can go to work for an airline – he/she has flown two thousand one-hour hops, every flight the same, over-and-over, again.

    The lack of suicides by aircraft is due more to the dollar costs than any other factors. There are so many much easier, cheaper, faster ways to ‘off’ oneself. Aviation-related suicides are NOT rare due to ‘screening’ [medical exams &/or flight checks] , training and/or experience.

  • Jeff Schuster

    Michael Sheridan is right.

    Mr. Fuller, as an AOPA member, aircraft owner, and pilot: I too am very disappointed with your ham-handed attempt at a response here. I’d presume that most people reading your statement on an AOPA blog are on the same team when it comes to our desire to see this tragedy not spun into an ill-conceived attempt to strangle general aviation. That having been said, it is ridiculous to attempt to mitigate the situation by clumsily forcing the idea that this was (at the exclusion of anything else) a suicide. More than ridiculous, it’s offensive to the victims and to the intelligence of anyone to whom you’re pitching this idea.

    The fact is, nobody in the media or general public would have cared very much if this man simply killed himself (with or without an airplane). It’s the huge issue that it is because he used an airplane to intentionally cause damage to property and murder other people. I would expect my AOPA to tackle the issue head on. This approach of regarding the tragedy as simply a “suicide” is dismissive and disrespectful to those who lost family. The complete disregard for anyone but the pilot is not a position that represents me or (I would hope) my AOPA.

    Your “perspective” that the primary issue here is suicide, and the presumption that the area of concern is to assure everyone that pilots aren’t particularly suicidal is irresponsible. What the media and public need to hear is how mortified the aviation community is, how this event is in such stark contrast to the good that pilots do every day, and what we’re doing to help. To presume that anyone is concerned that we’re suicidal is an embarrassingly self-absorbed response. People are concerned that we’re going to hurt THEM with our airplanes and need (and deserve) a straight-forward explanation of where aviators stand. “It was just a suicide, please try to ignore the other deaths and the burning building” is not where -I- stand. Is it REALLY where you are on this?

    I’d prefer to see you on Fox “news”, CNN, and all of the other media outlets that had been scrambling to make sense of this, as opposed to preaching a ridiculous argument that even your own choir shouldn’t buy.

  • Doug K

    I need to choose my words carefully. I do agree that “something” was missed or not treated. Having said that, IRS is indeed a problem for too many people. Anyone who has anything but W2 income can attest to that. Time to abolish IRS, go to “Fair Tax”, a flat 23 percent sales tax. I don’t like all the record keeping for my farming and my wife’s cleaning business.

    I agree with the fact that the general public will blame GA. A madman driving a 4×4 pickup with a “farmer fuel tank” behind the cab filled with gas and diesel likely would have burned the whole building down had he just crashed it through the front doors with the gas side already burning. I do wonder how many of the DUI collisions are actually suicides.

    If we show up at the airport “well lit” we aren’t going to be able to rent a plane.

    ANYONE can drive a car. Lots of idiots drive every day who have lost their license, and get away with it for quite a while.

    Need to keep things in perspective, this was a disturbed man who was intent on “making sure the IRS” got nothing. No house, no plane.

    Do I want more regulations for drivers? NO!! Same for us, our current rules have served us well. We need to keep our elected officials aware at ALL levels of government we ARE NOT a problem. DOUG AOPA 03580918

  • Howard Kave

    Every day in this country someone is murdered by the use of a firearm.
    In many instances, with which we are all familiar, the shooter kills multiple innocents before turing the weapon on him/herself.
    It happens in schools, churches, workplaces, on military installations, courthouses, government offices and just about anyplace where humans gather.
    Despite this mayhem the freedom of Americans, sane or not, to “keep and bear arms” is protected by the Constitution.
    No so, I am afraid, is our freedom to keep and operate aircraft.
    However we must, despite our small numbers, fight like the devil to prevent the government, the press, and the ignorant around us from using this incident to unreasonably restrict our ability to fly.
    The first step, second step and third step is education. The public, press, and politicians, despite over 100 years of exposure, still don’t understand what we do. I have read, twice already, that Mr. Stack departed his home base “without a flight plan”.
    What was he to report; “Direct IRS Office, and Straight In”? I am very tired of the ignorance that we have allowed, for too long, to weaken us. No one proposes mental health examination for truck, bus, train and taxi drivers, nor, for that matter, for every man and woman who operates a motor vehicle, most of which are as capable as a Dakota of causing this kind of mayhem.
    Let’s get pro-active so that when these kinds of things occur, the public is not so easily frightened by politicians and regulators hoping to score points by making that public feel protected, from us.

  • Mike Hansen

    Unfortunately, polititians seize any occurance or event to try to embolden their personal agenda, no matter the expense to whomever or whatever the situation. Politisizing such an event for personal gain is what they are about. But the blame ultimately goes to us, we elected them without verifying or vetting their own psycological stabilitty. In order for this not to happen we must eliminate the self serving polititians and elect the people that will serve putting country and constituants befor themselves. Their agenda must be that which is truly good for the people and not so much their political career. Only then will we have a congress worth keeping. GA sreves the world in so many ways, it would be a shame for it to be regulated out of existance. Once you loose something it is hard to get it back.

  • Roger Reeve

    A GA aircraft is not an efficient killing machine. McVee did a much better job with a rental truck. I am thankfull the guy didn’t go
    into a school with an AK47.

  • Andrew J Szinai

    I have read enough of the ill informed, the experts about mental disorders, terroistic attacts and such. I wonder if they truly understand the mechanics and physicis behind any gasoline driven vehical in the hands of a so called terroist, mentally handicapped,or suicidal person. It is apparent they are nit wits spouting off like the whatabe hollywood acters of the syndicated news media and elected officials, with little or absoluetly no knowledge what so ever. I wonder if the bafoons considered how the man got to the airport, did he drive, and if so, could he be considered mentally stable on his way to his demise? I wonder what would happen if the nitwits in office decided to put restrictions on all drivers on the public highways and have them file a driving plan to pick up there kids at the local soccer game, having to report talking on the cell, eating a Mcdonalds hamburger, and reading the the local trash while speeding down the thorofare would respond in the same manner as they verbally do about pilots. Give that some thought, maybe we need to have you take a medical exam every two years, and spend a min of 40 hours before we issue you a license, and if you want to drive in the rain, smog, and other adverse conditions, spend another 40 plus hours getting an endorsement to allow you out there! Have you check for TFRs and not allow you lotier around footbal games, nuclear power plants and P40. Restrict your driving when one of your politicians decide to use your tax dollars to travel to your town for the grand old scare tactics to condition your weak minds.This of course contingent upon a federal examiner passing you, then follow up with a min number of hours to keep current! Food for thought, maybe the pilots should lobby for the same rules, then everyone will be responsible and then all will be treated the same if operating a gasoline driven machine Just for information to those bent on restricting pilots, your car, truck, or motorcycle has the same potential as a plane, with an exception, you may not be able to kill yourself on the third floor! So get back to your room and turn on you big screen TV for more conditioning! By the way, I am a
    pilot who loves my life and my freedom that you are so bent on controlling!!

  • Gary A. Loper

    I too agree with Michael Sheridan and with Jeff Schuster. This was not just a suicide. This guy was really upset with a government agency and resorted to a stupid and senseless act of domestic terrorism to make some point, whatever that point was. Had he not had an airplane at his disposal, he likely would have used a car or truck, or maybe just a malatov cocktail. He didn’t load the airplane down with explosives or extra fuel, so I expect that this was a last minute, desparate act, probably as a result of an argument with the wife, perhaps over the issue, whatever it was, with the IRS!

    I totally disagree with Larry Goldburg. He must have failed his check ride, or knowledge test somewhere down the line. I have found that pilots are by and large, above average in intelligence, above average in physical fitness, and generally thoughtful and sane individuals who have a developed skill in aviation. Not just anyone can be a successful pilot. Many students drop out because of fear, lack of skill, or even lack of interest (sometimes lack of money?).

    I agree that AOPA needs to address this incident, straight up, not as a mere suicide but as what it really was – a disgruntled lunatic who was willing to kill himself and others over an issue with at least the IRS, and perhaps with his wife! Domestic terrorism – it seems to fit this category to me, albeit more complex, and mostly selfishly motivated.

  • Thomas Snow

    Welcome, fellow pilots, to what licensed, legitimate gun owners have been subjected to for 40 years-the demonization of your chosen pastime. Let’s all get ready to kiss our pilot certificates goodbye, because it IS going to happen-merely a matter of time, propelled by the hatred of those who don’t like our “annoying, dangerous, noisy little airplanes”.

  • http://AopaOnline Art Hanson

    This was an act of a person, who was beyond the point of normal thinking. He stuck out at a goverment
    agency who had gone beyond the law in treating him unfairly to draw attention to what can happen to
    people who have had thier lives ruined for petty bureaucrats. He used an airplane, because it would gain
    more newspaper coverage than an automobile which he also had available.
    I am a pilot who has been flying for over 65 years, flying has been a big part of my life, I think of it as
    normal as any other active.

  • Roger Reeve

    I couldn’t believe the comments by Larry Goldburg. My experience with fellow pilots has been so much better than what he described. I have always found pilots to be a cut above and I am proud to be one of them. Maybe he is one that didn’t make
    the cut. Also I think the Flight Physicals are overly restrictive. Look at the percentage of pilots in the general population.

  • Don

    Gee, Larry, why don’t you just really tell us how you feel? Stop this beating around the bush about those dumb old flight instructors and pilots who smile & fly and love airplanes and being in the sky! And, while you’re at it, ask your Mama to change your diaper.

  • Kevin

    Once the left wing nut jobs start trying to figure out solutions to this one, watch out! We’ll hear such proposals as “An air marshall is to be on every small plane that leaves the runway” or “No aircraft may become airborne with more than 10 gallons of fuel on board” Good luck to all of us on this one.

  • John

    Joe Stack : Many of you may have read accounts describing Joe from his band member friends. I can add a pilot’s perspective as I shared a hangar with him for a year and a half. We spent a great deal of time together both at the airport and away from planes, and had many meals and conversations together. I agree with what all the others have said. I never heard him rant/rave/or talk down about any person or government. We did talk a few times about his (and my own) taxes, IRS, government, and all the other topics that any of you have had with a friend. Never once did anything remotely raise a red flag. I have always said that he was the smartest guy I have known. Accomplished in many areas, music, photography, scuba, flew the plane by the numbers with precession (in the muck too). Ask any question and after a pause, out would come a response straight out of the college lecture textbooks. Your above average Joe in every way. I sure don’t know what happened. I wish I could have helped.

  • Don

    Yeah, really a sad case and, obviously a disturbed man. Sure is gonna cause us all a lot of problems.

  • Charlie Thompson

    We cannot protect ourselves from every one-in-ten-million suicide attacker. To attempt to do so would require that we all live in a bunker and never co-mingle in public. Clearly that is unacceptable. The *last* thing we need right now is opportunistic politicians trying to score points by asserting that they will “do something” about this tragedy. Clearly the NRA would agree as well.

  • Mickey Coggins

    Very sad, and like others I fear for our right to fly. I also agree with Thomas Snow that gun owners have been facing the consistent erosion of their rights for years. We have to work together to fight for everyone’s freedom if we want to protect our own.

    “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.

  • Mark McIver

    I was compelled to call in on the HLN (CNN) afternoon Austin news coverage to respond to Richelle Carey’s question….. “are there enough safeguards at small airports to protect us from deliberate acts like this”….I said that no additional security was needed and that we as Americans needed to humanize government and create a forum so people who had issues could resolve them peacefully. I also stated that the mode to deliver this act of violence was really was no different than using a car or truck. Sad story. We need to participate in government at all levels so that we can really say…” We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility,”……

  • Cody A.

    It is really terrible…both for the pilot and the possible consequences on the GA community. This article on the “terror threat” of small planes really made me mad:
    If the government ever decided to limit general aviation I would hope they do the same for automobiles. After all, the Oklahoma City Bombing was way more catastrophic than any small plane crash could ever be…and who cant rent a Uhaul truck? It is really sad to see.

  • Rob Coffman

    I see no good coming of this, nor do I get the warm fuzzies that Craig Fuller and AOPA are doing much in our behalf. Personally, I don’t give a crap what Stack was thinking or why he did what he did. All I know is that he gave DHS and TSA all the ammo they will ever need to drive general aviation into the ground. Maybe if AOPA spent more of our dues money on lobbying in our best interests and less of it on new CJs, Caravans and chief pilot salaries, we’d be better off. Hey, Fuller, sell the jets, stop writing position papers, stop holding encounter groups, get off your butt, go to Capitol Hill, roll up your sleeves and get to work. That’s what your predecessor would have done.

  • Andrew Poth

    The Austin incident is symptomatic of something much bigger than just an ordinary suicide, and a number of experts have been warning of a rise in such incidents as the economy spirals down and our out-of-control government continues to steal from the populace in a misguided quest to “redistribute the wealth”. It’s time that the direct involvement of the U.S. Federal Government in the lives of private individuals be scaled back. Some have suggested abolition of the federal income tax and drastic pruning or elimination of the IRS. It appears to me that Mr. Stack was frustrated and simply snapped; he happened to use an airplane. The next one may use a dump truck or walk into a government office with a bomb strapped to his body.

  • Robert

    Hopefully no action will be taken against General aviation for this isolated incident which could have been accomlished by many other means that have already ocurred resulting in even higher losses of life. (aka gun rampages, truck bombs and even snipers in car trunks). However any knee-jerk action that singley puts a burden on private pilots should be paid by taxpayer dollars and not individual citizens just as security for airlines is provided by the government. A certain early founding document for this country states that all men are created equal with certain unalienable rights etc. The supreme court has recently ruled that corporations have the same rights as individuals therfore it should work the other way around providing individuals the same benefits as corporations. To do otherwise would validate Starke’s suicide blog which rants that exceptions are easily provided to the rich and powerful while common citizens are liable to the full extent.

  • Jonathan Freidin

    On the issue of suicide vs. terrorism, doesn’t the question boil down to intent? Was Mr. Stack making a statement by killing himself by flying into the IRS building, or did he really intend to kill people and harm property? Hmmm. Terrorism is crime, as is murder and murder-suicide. To call it a suicide seems to overlook the fact that it was a murder-suicide. If the murder on the ground wasn’t intended, maybe it was manslaughter-suicide? Either way, it’s a crime and should be treated like a crime. The criminally insane perpetrator is now dead, so the question of whether he’s competent to stand trial seems moot.

    But there still seems to be a lurking question, whether Mr. Stack belongs in the same category of suicide-murderers that cause terror, or is he a different animal? Conventional terrorists typically belong to a larger organization and are recruited for their “mission”. Mr. Stack was presumably acting alone, and out of mental illness (or a really bad lapse of judgement?).

    Can AOPA make a strong statistical case that use of GA aircraft in the commission of a crime is a lot lower than cars, trucks, boats, etc.? So regulatory dollars would be better spent elsewhere. But the issue does seem to scale with the size of the aircraft. Perhaps we need a review of the damage-inflicting capability of various sizes of aircraft and associated levels of access security. That most light aircraft seem to have less damage-inflicting capability than a car seems tenable.

    John Yodice was no doubt consulted. Could he share the legal justifications for Mr. Fuller’s position?

    All I could think of on my way to work as the story broke for me on the radio was, “AOPA is really going to have its hands full this time.”. Keep up the good work!

  • Pingback: Suicide by aircraft()

  • Al Boyles

    I’m a teacher at Skyline High School in Dallas. I own an airplane and, obviously, a pilot. I ask the question regarding McVey’s involvement in the destruction of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. A Ryder truck was involved in that incident, but I still see Ryder trucks on the highways. No one thought about outlawing Ryder trucks. The same goes with airplanes. Two ATP destroyed the Twin Towers, but I still see commercial jets in the sky. There will always be “nuts” in this world, but not all “nuts” are bad. So, let’s not get too carried away with the blame.

  • BlainSmipy

    I have to agree with Andy, this is a underwhelming response from AOPA to this accident. We must jump to the forefront of this and take control, before somebody else decides our fate. Secondly, we must have more support from the industry, they have to step up and start defending aviation for real, no more feel good BS ads. We are all under attack for a very legitimate reason this time. The guy was a nut and he did real damage, we can’t sweep that under the rug. We have now all been characterized as crazed white middle class/wealthy males capable of great destruction and terrorism. Just read the papers, and you’ll see this. I do not have the resources to defend against the on coming political storm against us, and we more than ever need AOPA and the manufactures to step up 100%. Do you think when Joe Q public comes to this web site and sees things like AOPA giving away aircraft this the best image for us? “Hey look, they’re so stinking rich they can give away a plane”. Maybe, lets take the members money spent on these aircraft, and channel it into something to either improve our image or defending our selves on capital hill.

  • J. Howard

    There is no point offending Mr. Fuller for attempting to make the best of a “No Win” situation. Reminds me of conservatives who can’t get along…
    Many have mentioned Oklahoma City and the Ryder rental truck. Do we recall that the original 1993 attack on the World Trade Center was carried out by an ordinary van. An article I read recently stated that had the terrorists planned ahead simply to place the van/bomb next to a pillar, the tower would have come down. We would be decrying 1993 instead of 9/11, with a much higher death toll.
    Would there be a cry for more CONTROL of vans? Not likely. More control is always about “Control” and little more.
    Concerning whether Mr. Stack was mentally ill: Had he sought help for depression or anxiety, he would have likely been prescribed an anti-depressant – an SSRI. Unfortunately, in a certain percentage of patients, suicide ideology and anger are aggravated rather than relieved. But that’s nothing to do with mental health, is it. It’s more a matter for the attorneys, isn’t it?
    I would certainly not be the first to address the concept that Mr. Stack, while certainly a criminal, and possibly insane, may be the “Canary in a Coal Mine” concerning the citizen’s relationship with our government. The concept in question: when the canary in the coal mine dies – is it to blame?
    Heartfelt condolences to all the affected parties. We live in a broken world.


    I cannot understand why any Federal Government office or high value target would be housed in facilities that are designed as lightly as an office building with glass facade. In this day, with numerous groups targeting our government, I feel that there are more secure facility designs. Concrete structures along with strategic locations are the only remedy to future attacks by groups or loners in planes, trucks, etc.

  • TexasPilot

    “left wing nut jobs”


    And what of the “right wing nut jobs” who daily rage against our “evil government”?

    Stack’s suicide note could have been excerpted from the transcript of many of these broadcasts. His act (as many have pointed out, and as our AOPA president chose to ignore) was not simply a suicide, but a deliberate and considered attack on our government, an attack on Our Country.

    Sad it is to see America so divided that even its pilots cannot recognize common ground, or common sense.

    You need both wings to keep the plane in the air.

  • Dale

    What happens to LSA medical requirements? Knee-jerk re-actions will end up undoing a good thing for entry-level pilots.

  • Dean Phillips

    The perception of GA in the media is that Pilots/AircraftOwners are seen as”the haves” by a number of those that are “have-nots” in Journalism. Class warfare-used by liberals in is being encouraged in the current Administration and their Party. If you’re no part of the “95%” you are part the problem. So, the GA safety issue is the Trojan Horse to be used to clamp down on us. It’s an excuse for those who want to limit our freedom to fly, live independent lives. Environmentalists are also, hoping to make us go away. What with 100LL, Jet A useage. I agree that we need to learn from the NRA’s experiences as AOPA members.We night need their PR assistance and membership strength. To be 1/2 of 1% of the public that puts us at a serious deficit in numbers. With a dwindling number of new pilots coming to GA, it’s only going to get harder.

    We are all-student pilots-private pilots-aicraft owners- ambassadors to the public for General Aviation. How can we collectively have conversation wtih the public in our individual communities? Currently, the public is seeing us as guys and gals in the private country club with the high wall and security guards. We need to drop that image. The AOPA campaign how GA benefits communities campaign is a good first start. letting the public know that 40% of the Haiti relief flights were from GA volunteering their time, aircraft and money helps. We need to keep getting the good work we do out in a more consistent way. Perhaps, a National Community Open-House at our respective airports/FBOs would be a good first step. Let’s show our community who we are as individuals.

  • Stewart Walker

    Permanent solution to a temporary problem. IRS problems are not worth dying for. Make pilots look like freaky ticking time bombs…

  • John J

    If there was a rule that could have prevented Stack from using his Piper, you wouldn’t have prevented the attack. If you had banned every airplane from the sky, he would have found a simpler and more effective method to carry out his misguided mission.

  • Cody A.

    Wow, I was just reading what Dean Phillips wrote. What an idea! A national General Aviation Open House! Hey Mr. Fuller, anyway you could start making this happen? There are so many people out there who may be saying that GA poses a threat and stuff but its probably because they dont see things out in the light. So many people are unaware of the role GA plays in America, In my local area I have met people who have lived here for most of thier lives and when I say Im taking flight lessons at the local airport they say “What Airport?” They didnt even know it was there! And Im sure that is the case all over the country. Something needs to be done about it.

  • Andy

    At the risk of going off-topic, Mr. Stack’s rage at the IRS was mis-directed. The IRS is a government agency tasked with implementing Internal Revenue Code as passed by the legislature, i.e our honorable Senators and Congressmen. I hold no ill-will toward the IRS, even when I feel screwed by the tax code. Stack’s, and our, ire should be directed to our representatives to change the tax code in ways that make sense to fund government operations fairly. The poor schleps at the IRS are only trying to do their job, and in most cases I have been involved in, do it professionally. Let’s all lighten up on our federal workers, eh? Some of them are your neighbors.

  • David C.

    So, out of the 30,000 suicides and 750,000 suicide attempts yearly how many of these are IRS/government related? Perhaps we are asking the wrong questions.