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A Reasonable Pactice?
By Mark Neckameyer


February 01, 2006

This letter is not meant to show any disrespect to Major Stephen (Butch) Freeman or his grieving family but there is another aspect to this tragedy that screams out for investigation and changes in the way some things are done.  A veteran myself from a family including many who served in combat, I can guarantee you that individuals with Major Freeman's kind of resume are fearlessly brave.  That said, what if the L-39 aircraft had crashed into a densely populated area or into a school or hospital or into the center of Ketchikan's business district instead of into a mobile home parking lot?  Many people might have been killed. The National Transportation Safety Board has work to do here!
We have read various accounts; the jet had been sold to an Alaskan charter company and was being repossessed; or that the Alaskan company was only considering the sale and had rejected it; or that Freeman was considering buying the aircraft and was testing it out.  Perhaps Major Freeman bravely directed his crippled aircraft to crash into an area where only he was in jeopardy of being killed but what actually happened and who was really at fault?  The repossession version of the story is the version most often heard.  We have all seen programs on cable TV like The TLC network's "Repoman, Stealing for a Living", staring the actor who plays Big Pussy on the Sopranos.  In that "reality" program the repossessors are sent to snatch boats or cars or big diesel trucks.  They pick the locks of their target vehicles and scoot off into the night lest the delinquent debtor come out arguing or maybe even shooting.  There have even been stories in the news of repossessors being shot and killed with the shooter being found innocent for reason of self defense as they claimed they thought their property was being stolen.
Hasty repossession techniques probably do not include the careful pre-flight checks required in other versions of general aviation and anyway, how would the repossessor pilot know much about the condition of the target plane?  Repossession of aircraft by hastily snatching the plane as one would a delinquent automobile should not be allowed.  The practice should be made illegal if that is what happened in this case.  I also think that the finance company should pay Major Freeman's family and others for their damages beyond the minimal amount covered my insurance.  They probably should have to pay punitive damages in my opinion.
Mark Neckameyer
Irvine, CA - USA


About: Mark Neckameyer, a frequent contributor to our Opinion section, presently resides in Southern California but has plans to retire to spend Summers on the Alaska coast in two years.  He has been an active volunteer in a variety of civic activities including animal charities and MADD and he has been a volunteer in his local Republican Party during elections.



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