No Greater Burden

August 23, 2012 by Bruce Landsberg

Most of us don’t think much about the aftermath of an aircraft accident. The energy is usually put into avoiding one in the first place. But the reality is that sometimes bad things happen to good pilots, and it doesn’t have to be a big mistake that will permanently and tragically alter your lifescape.

Our newest video, No Greater Burden: Surviving an Aircraft Accident, talks about that reality.

The Air Safety Institute works diligently to educate the general aviation community on prevention and the critical paths to flight safety, but this project was different. The story is compelling, and it isn’t a retelling of basic bone-headedness or just an “ill-considered act.” The simple lapse that caused this accident had much deeper roots, and unlike many very serious accidents, we got the rare opportunity to understand what the pilot was thinking.

The 32-minute documentary was underwritten by pilot and AOPA member Russ Jeter who shared his deepest insights into what it means to be pilot-in-command. I’ve always had a strong sense of responsibility toward flying, long before beginning a career in GA safety, but Russ’ story added to my commitment to be the best I can be. We hope it will do the same for you. Please let me know if we succeeded.

You can watch the video here.


Bruce Landsberg
Senior Safety Advisor, Air Safety Institute

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  • Tony O’Brien

    When I fly with passangers there is no greater joy but also a tremendous burden I carry.I routinely fly with my 16 year old Son, Daughters and Wife. I notice a huge difference in the way I prepare for that type of flight then when I am alone in the cockpit. I am not referring to shortcuts but just a more at ease approach when I am alone vs. passangers.

    I do have a rule on IFR flight for passangers vs. single pilot. My minimums and Go-No Go deciision is more strick with passangers than when it is just me flying.

    We all need to adopt a solid game plan, never take anything for granted when it comes to flying and our judgement or relaxe our standards or training. Old pilots with lots of experience are my hero’s.

  • Kevin Collins

    Kudos to Mr. Jeter for funding the project and going on camera. That was clearly very difficult for him and took a lot of guts. I am very sorry for his family’s loss.

  • Neil Cohen

    The Mooney I’ve flown for the past 23 years was recently totalled in a forced landing. My wife and I walked away with very minor injuries, in large part due to the solid Mooney airframe. I’m convinced, however, that the shoulder belts I had installed many years ago saved us from very serious injury.

    My message is simple – consider having shoulder belts installed in older aircraft that came equipped with only lap belts, and use them. Turns our they were the best upgrade I made to my late Mooney.

  • JP Russell

    This is a must-watch and a very good reminder to all of us that it can happen to us, too.

  • Charles Linenfelser

    What an emotional story! Very sad accident. We all learned something from his tragic experience. Even listening to him go through his landing check list (15:08) he made a mistake that I have preached to fellow pilots for years about changing the “GUMP” verbal check list to “FUMP”. The reason for this is many times pilots say gear under carriage mixture & prop actually missing gas or fuel. So on landing “FUMP” Fuel, Under carraige, Mixture, Prop might save the day

  • Mike H

    Mr Jeter makes a solid point about sterile cockpits and observing checklists. His airplane had some very sophisticated safety gear, but the most critical piece of safety eqipment is the pilot’s mind.

    Mrs. Jeter is a special lady. I’m certain she is a large reason for his success. What proportion of women could look a a dead child and say “I forgive you”? Probably very few.

  • Hugh Jones

    This is an extremely emotional and powerful video. I thank Mr and Mrs Jeeter for their strength in making this video and making the safety points in the aftermath. Thank you . Hopefully this will stick in peoples mind and help prevent a future incident.

  • Don B

    Thanks to the Jeter family for the courage to produce this video. It was a very sobering look at what can happen, and a reminder (to me, at least) to consider your personal assessment of fitness for flight (i.e. IM SAFE) as seriously as you would treat any other aspect of preflight preparation. We need to be as ready to fly as our airplanes.

  • Sandy St.John

    Even the best pilot can make a wrong decision that will impact theirs and the lives of others in tragic ways. However, one of the greatest things that can come out of a tragedy is to help others learn from the mistakes we make.

    May the peace and grace of God through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ remind Mr. Jeter and his family that the story isn’t yet finished.

  • Roland P. Desjardins

    Bruce, you must show this “No greater Burden” video at every event you can. It is very compelling and the best work I’ve see done to convince pilots about being vigilant about safety I’ve ever seen. Don’t let this go to waste, please!

  • Mark Sloan

    Thank you for creating this moving video. It is a good reminder to all of us to pay more attention to how much stress we may be under. I had not realized how much stress can impact our ability to focus. Thanks again.

  • Bruce Gruenbaum

    When I saw the title of this article, I was expecting a story about someone who had taken unnecessary risks, possibly drinking within 8 hours of flying, or making an irresponsible go/no-go decision. I regularly read the accident database to learn from the mistakes others have made – “A clever man learns from his own mistakes. A wise man learns from others.”

    The thing that struck me about this accident is how easily this could have been me. Mr Jeter did nothing that I would not have done. Flying has always been my escape when I need to get away and be alone or just be with those close to me. I’ve always made a big event of GUMPS with my family. When we get in the pattern, they know to do a GUMPS check with me. But the distraction of having someone talk to you in the pattern can easily make you miss it.

    Sometimes, the price that is exacted for the consequences of our mistakes is way higher than it should be, and my heart absolutely bleeds for the Jeter family for their loss. I don’t know how I would deal with it myself.

    Thank you very much for opening yourselves up about this very sad event and turning it into a really high impact learning experience for me and every other pilot who will learn from it.

  • Bill McGlynn

    Thank you Russ and Kimberly for your willingness to share this story. If no one else – you have changed me. Russ – you are right, we tend to push the dark thought of a tragedy far back into our consciousness when we launch on a flight. I, for one, am not going to do that anymore. From now on I am going to assess that risk along with everything else, and I’m going to assess my physical, mental and emotional well-bieing more critically and I’m not going to take as many chances that I can “overcome” any problem I may encounter.
    Jacob is still with us – now he is helping to save the lives of pilots and their loved ones. I will check in with him from now on before I fly.

  • Susan Simmons

    The impact of this video is immense. I’ve shared it with other pilots already.

    It made a difference in my life immediately: I needed to make a short flight from my home airport after watching the video. I then listened to a short, somewhat vague message on my cell phone which asked me to return the call. Since I knew that it might very well be upsetting news that would cause me stress, I decided to wait until AFTER the flight to return the call. Mr. Jeter’s video & the emphasis on IM SAFE was on my mind – especially the “S”. I didn’t want to be distracted by possible emotional stress – even in a very short flight. And my flight went well.

    So thank you, Mr. Jeter, for so nobly honoring the memory of your son. We pilots are indebted to you.

  • Ledford Parnell

    I agree with the previous comment that this needs to be shown at every AOPA membership gathering of any size, not just the big shows. After it is shown, do not put the lights on right away to give us a chance to wipe away the tears. This emphasizes in a significant way how seemingly minor decisions can impact us severely, especially in an unforgiving environment. We have to be and stay so alert. This is heart wrenching; my heart bleeds for Mr. and Mrs. Jeter. The only negative of watching the video is that you can’t give them a hug after it is over, because you want them to know you have so much empathy and not any blame.

  • Tom Hollenhorst

    What a terrible tragedy. Thank you Mr. Jeter for your courage for sharing your loss with us. As a fellow pilot, and the brother of a pilot who died in a tragic airplane crash over ten years ago, I can feel your pain. This presentation will go a long way in helping others to be aware of the subtle changes that can affect a person’s piloting skills. I truly believe that your son’s death, and your courage in sharing your loss, will save others. My heart goes out to you and your family.

  • Chuck Starck

    I bet it’s a great story. Too bad it’s not in print. A hearing impaired person has no clue what it’s about.
    Sounds very interesting and very sad, would be good to know what it was about.

  • Eugenio Guardado

    Mr & Mrs Jeter,
    Thank you for sharing your story with the rest of the piloting community. Your story touches the core of any pilot who believes it will never happen to me. It could happen to anyone. In my opinion, pilots are a special breed, but we are still humans with limitations. Making an assesment of ones emotional state and ability is one of the most important checklist one must do in every flight, and probably one of the hardest to do accurately. I applaud your courage in sharing your story with us. Most important, you are an awesome role model to your other son, Jona for sharing your experience so that others can learn.

  • Rick Beach

    Thanks, Russ. This helps.

  • Jim Johnson

    What a magnificent tribute to this beautiful child from a very loving family ! Thank you to the entire Jeter family for the courage to make public such a private loss in order to save others. On to the hard work of forgiving yourself. Good luck and God speed sir !

  • Chris Johnson

    Thank you for sharing this, Russ and Kimberly. Your video was very special, and I appreciate it very much. God bless you and your family. You will be in our prayers.

  • http://RealmarkGroup Will stout

    Russ, Family, and all involved in sharing this message,

    I am in the same business as Russ, am the same age, with the same number of air hours, the same GA and jet experience, and the same hard earned ATP rating…in short the same passion for flying. I began taking my Granddaughter flying in my Experimental at 20 months…she is now 12.

    Thank you for sharing. I will never forget your story, BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY I WILL NEVER FORGET YOUR MESSAGE!

    I cried for an hour. I am lucky, an event occurred to me (like most of us) but with zero consequences.

    From a training prospective, “tribal knowledge” shared in this heartfelt way…HAS REAL MEANING TO US ALL. Thanks to all, who cared enough to share this human factors lesson in such a personal way.

    Will Stout

  • Mike Longley

    As a floatplane pilot without the hours of experience you have I followed the story of your accident with great concern. I credit you with your bravery to tell your story. All of us could have gone through your experience so easily. I think as we consider the issues at risk here and the precious cargo we carry the points you make are very salient.
    Please continue to spread the message.
    God bless.

  • Richard McGlaughlin

    This is a powerful video, painful to watch, painful to make. I love flying an amphib, but worry about the gear all the time. This could happen to anybody.
    It’s such a great hobby, and I’ve had a lot of fun flying with my family…but it’s completely, suddenly unforgiving. This makes me want to hug all my children.
    Thanks to you and your friends for making this difficult video, for sharing the event and the suffering, for alerting us, leading us in the right direction.
    Peace to you, and love to your younger son. Your boy did not die in vain.

  • Frank Guedon, M.D.

    Should be mandatory viewing for all pilots. Beautifully done and very sobering, especially to all us Parents!

  • Mike Dewey

    What a precious gift the Jeter family has given us.

    One thing really stuck with me was when the gentlemen with the consulting company mentioned that we do self-assessment, but tend to give ourselves better scores than we should. I’ll think hard about that one next time I fly and be honest.

    Also, I’ll consider myself just as valuable to my family as they are to me and be just as conscientious when I fly by myself as I am with passengers aboard.

  • Bill Russell

    Thanks for your story and God bless you and your family, you may have helped many of us that are not aware of problems we have hidden.
    I was reluctant to read this story as I don’t like sad endings, I have lost six flying friends in Alaska since 1992, some were just being in the wrong place at the wrong time with others at the helm, others were bad judgment or do to over confidence. I lost my 2ed. Class medical in 04 after a bypass and fought for two years in 09 to get my non restricted commercial medical back, thinking I really needed flying to regain confidence in myself as a business person as well as me self esteem. I am glad I read this story now and hope to get tested.
    We bought our fifth Maule (tail dragger) this year and I have had a few incidences on landings that never were a problem before. I have been pondering that maybe I am just getting old at 65 and don’t respond like I use to when making judgment calls on my approaches to short airstrips I use here in New England as well as going around rather than insisting on landing. I have had extensive surgery on my upper and lower jaws to cure sleep apnea as well as having severe pain in both shoulders do to Rotor Cup problems, lots of lost sleep or trouble going to sleep almost every night, wondering if my pondering is in the wrong place?? Thanks again Bill

  • Matt Inman

    Thank you, Russ. Any of us could have made the same mistake but very few would have your courage and character to use it for good. There’s no doubt that your little boy is very proud of his father.

  • Mike Youssi

    Heroism, and heroes, arise when ordinary people do extraordinary things. Where the courage came from, in the hearts of both Russ and Kimberly, to share this loss, I cannot imagine. My lips quivered as I listended to and watched this extraordinary and gripping testimony by so loving a family. Like the numbing effect of the cold water, tragedy can immobilze, too. Yet, somehow, the heroes have emerged with words to guide the rest of us. God bless you both.

  • Hi Sierra

    As a fellow amphibious owner I’ve always had a high concern about landing gear down, on the water and can really relate to Mr. Jeter’s tragic accident. A tragic accident could happen to any of us, don’t think for a minute it can’t happen to you. The Jeter’s tragic loss and their production of this Video will no doubt have a very positive impact on the actions of many pilots to increase safety, i can assure it has with me. We all enjoy sharing our love of flying, and our duty rises to a higher level when we have passengers on board.
    Mr. and Mrs. Jeter, i can’t thank you enough for sharing your story. i think it will do more good than you will ever know. God Bless.