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Stay afraid and safe

I’ve said it before, in my mind, the pilot you have to fear the most is the one who’s the most fearless. Sounds like an odd paradox – a fearful pilot -- but in aviation, the safest aviator is the one who maintains a healthy dose of fear as it relates to flying. This is akin to swimming with sharks. If you’re not at least a little afraid, wary, while you’re in the water with them, you should be. I used to fly with a fearless guy. Fellow charter pilot named Ted. He wasn’t scared of anything, let alone Mother Nature. He thought thunderstorms were over-rated, and if you had any fear of them you were a wusss. We could be on the airport ramp together, getting ready to take off, pre-flighting our respective planes, with a thunder boomer just to the north of us, lying across our path, and I’d be thinking, I need to postpone this flight at least until the storm moves out of the area. Ted, however, had no fear of foul weather. Full steam ahead. Nothing was standing in his way. Certainly not a thunderstorm full of lightning and thunder. Ted would either flip it off and fly through it or around it, but it wasn’t going to make him postpone the trip. Ted rolled the dice. He was a gambler. A high flyer. So one day, he’s flying the Mexican coast, on his way back from Vera Cruz to Brownsville, and he happens to spy what looks to be an abandoned shrimp boat, a shipwreck, lying on the beach. In Ted’s mind, this was pure gold, because he thought that an abandoned boat is fair game to anyone who can get to it first. Possession is nine-tenths the law, in other words. A salvageable boat is for the one who claims it first. So he gets back to Brownsville and convinces three of his buddies, one a doctor’s son who had a private license and liked to hang around with commercial pilots, that they’d load up two pickup trucks, one with a big trailer attached to its rear end, and drive back down into Mexico, salvage the shrimp boat, load ‘er up and head back to Texas where they’d sell her and make a nice profit. Keep in mind, this was long before the drug cartels took over most turf south of the river. So they drive about two hours south,

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