Two fatalities and nine reserve deployments in two days. If you’re not here you probably think this place is seriously dangerous? You would be right and wrong because most would argue yesterday was a fairly benign day. One opinion asked what will happen in the next ten days if conditions become at all challenging as Piedrahita is known to be at times. Others are dismissive in the sense that we all know the risks and choose to proceed and that any over-reaction locally will simply be an emotional response amplified by our proximity to these tragic events.
What is more interesting (and perhaps unfortunate) is the fact that FAI/CIVL made changes in an attempt to make these events safer after the last fatality in Mexico. A cynical view may be that all they did was a whitewash to cover or mitigate any liability whether real or perceived. This view might find support if you consider the draconian waiver we were all forced to sign along with the fact that despite the rigid rules imposed by FAI/CIVL they remain at arms length shifting all responsibility to the organisers and pilots.
The organisers probably have no choice but to poll the pilots if any decisions are to be made regarding the continuance of the competition. There is conflict between the dire implications of further incidents versus the critisism and claims that may be brought against them in terms of costs and commitments should the event be stopped. Now I don’t know about the rest of you but my myopic understanding of these things paint a terrible picture of conflicting interests that do not promote objective decision making in terms of safety.
My bet is that FAI/CIVL will want to be seen to ‘do the right thing’ (whatever that is) while limiting any liability at the same time. Steve Ham is as level headed as anyone I know and will probably do whatever he is asked to do within reason. Vague I know but one thing is sure: EVERYONE involved will probably consult their legal representatives.
Having said all of that many of us would happily continue flying this competition albeit with the inescapable sobriety enforced by the passing of Francisco Vargas and Eitel von Muhlenbrock. We did not know them personally yet still feel a sense of loss.