By now, millions of people around the world have seen the ghastly video images of the gorgeous Stearman biplane locking its brakes and flipping over onto its back at Washington’s Reagan National Airport.
The high-profile gaffe took place during the promotion for Legends of Flight, a 3-D, IMAX movie that premiered Wednesday at the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum in downtown Washington, D.C., and provides an amazing, behind-the-scenes look at building the Boeing 787 “Dreamliner.” Although the movie promoters wanted to get attention by bringing the legendary Stearmans to DCA, this wasn’t the kind of attention that anyone who loves aviation was looking for.
Still, there are a couple of bright spots that no one who sees the infamous video should miss.
First, make sure the sound is turned up so that you can hear the voice of pilot Mike Treschel.
His gorgeous, lovingly restored aircraft has been severely damaged, and he’s gone through a stunning, wrenching experience himself – yet his sole concern is the safety of his passenger, Ashley Halsey, a Washington Post reporter. Treschel calmly helps Halsey out of the damaged airplane and escorts him to safety.
There’s no feeling sorry for himself, or cursing, or blaming – just a stand-up guy doing his best to salvage what has to be one of the worst moments in his life.
And Halsey distinguished himself, too.
He wasn’t pointing fingers, or exaggerating the dangers of the roll-over accident. He complimented Treschel, sympathized with him, and said he would fly with him again tomorrow if given the chance.
Some have been critical of Halsey for letting his camera roll and posting the video online, but as much as we all regret the painful images, he’s a reporter with a job to do. When news happens – in this case an aircraft accident that shuts down DCA’s main runway for two hours – he’d be negligent to ignore it. The fact that instant media spreads the images around the world at such incredible speed is a fact of life for the age we live in.
Treschel was flying the second Stearman in a group of eight – and I was a passenger in the seventh airplane.
For those of you who ask, “Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the movie?” I can tell you Legends of Flight is extraordinary. It captures the excitement, wonder, and grandiosity of Boeing’s grand endeavor of building a radically new airliner in a way that’s accessible and even joyful.
I hope and trust Treschel’s airplane will be rebuilt and made as good as new. Within hours of the mishap, plans were being made to get the aircraft to a repair facility and return it to the air.