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1998 Darwin News
Ski Theft Backfires
Hanging Around Jail
Guy Gulps Goldfish
Modus Operandi Misfires
Mummy Says, Don't Smoke
Don't Drink and Fly
Dynamite and Boats Don't Mix
Sequined Pastie
Passionate Plunge
Dive to Death
Igniting Fireworks the Easy Way
Wife Tossing in Buenos Aires
Never Too Old for a Darwin Award
Basketball Player Takes a Dunking
Don't Chute the Messenger
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1998 Darwin Awards
Honoring Charles Darwin, the father of evolution, Darwin Awards commemorate those who improve our gene pool--by removing themselves from it. Next

Don't Drink and Fly 
1998 Darwin Award Winner
Confirmed True by Darwin

Tom protests, "A gust lock pushes in on the yoke of an aircraft. This would cause the aircraft to remain on the ground, not climb, as the story claims."

(25 April 1998, Massachusetts) One fateful day in April, a private pilot landed his Piper PA-32-300 at the New Bedford airport. To secure his aircraft against thieves, he inserted a gust lock into the co-pilot's control column, and padlocked it in place. This procedure is fairly common, except that the gust lock is usually placed on the pilot's control column. That way it's hard to forget it when you prepare to depart. Many gust locks have a big red plate that hangs down to cover the ignition and master switch. We will never know why our soon to be dead friend chose to put the gust lock on the co-pilot's side.

The pilot went off to have some drinks and returned to his plane at 10:30 PM. He hopped into the aircraft with 155 mg/dL of ethanol in his blood, and departed without remembering to check that the flight controls were unobstructed. A witness to the accident reported that he departed the runway at a very steep angle, consistent with having a gust lock installed. About this time, our erstwhile friend realized that he forgot to remove the gust lock, and that his plane will soon stall. The real problem is that the key for the padlock is on the same keyring as the key for the ignition. So he had two choices: try to remove the padlock key from the keyring while keeping the plane running, which will take more time than he has, or turn off the engine, which will accelerate the stall, then rush to remove the gust lock and restart the engine. He chose option B.

But he didn't make it in time. The airplane, its course fixed by the gust lock, "went straight up in the air like an acrobat" then appeared to level off, turn northwest, then northeast, followed by "a nose dive" and a rapid descent to the ground.

When the National Transportation Safety Board investigator arrived at the scene he discovered the padlock and gust lock still installed and the keyring with both keys still on it on the floor of the cockpit. © 1994 - 2012

Submitted by: Mike Tavis


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