Drones Scare me

drone picLiterally every day, a drone is flown dangerously close to a commercial plane as its landing or taking off from an airport.It is not a question of IF a drone is going to cause a major air disaster, it is now a question of WHEN.

There’s a lot in the media about drones invading privacy and being a nuisance, but I really don’t think that enough attention to the danger of a drone being sucked into and damaging a plane engine at it’s most vulnerable moments of flight.

Most plane crashes happen during landings or takeoff.  Adding drones as another potential cause of an accident is frightening as the number of owners have grown exponentially.

I don’t know what these hobbyists are thinking when they fly their toys near airports.  Do they not understand that they putting a lot of lives at risk? I hope the FAA’s new legislation requiring drone owners to register their contraptions prompts them to be more responsible…but I’m probably being overly optimistic.

I just hope I’m not on a plane when this happens.

One plane crash in a lifetime is more than enough for me.


Meeting Fellow Plane Crash Survivors

Last week, I met up with Lindy Philip (coauthor) and Lisa R — both fellow plane crash survivors — in New York City along with a few of their friends.  Originally, Lindy and I were hoping to have a get-together with as many of the people profiled in Bracing for Impact: True Tales of Air Disasters and the People Who Survived Them as possible to celebrate the release of the book. But the logistics turned out to be too much and it was just a few of us that could make it…..not to say that our small numbers diminished our fun.  Au contraire.

Despite having worked closely together for over a year, Lindy and I had only met in person briefly once before. And I’d never met Lisa in-person before (just through Skype and the phone). We spent several days tromping around the city, eating, shopping, people watching, going to an art museum, riding the subway and waling, walking, walking.  We did go to the 9/11 Memorial, something I’d been a little hesitant to do being that I live outside NYC and my ex-husband worked in the WTC at the time of the attack (he fortunately got stuck in traffic that morning and was about to get on the ferry to NY when the second plane hit). The exhibit was so well done, I highly recommend it to anyone who can make it.

It pored rain almost the entire time Lindy, Lisa & Company were here (thanks to Hurricane Joaquin that was battering the Caribbean and sending much-needed buckets of water up north), but that didn’t diminish anyone’s enthusiasm.  We laughed and joked around.  We are all very different, but there was an instant bond that comes from being plane crash survivors.  None of us really talked about our crashes much, instead it was like getting together with an old friend that you already knew well.

That doesn’t happen often, and I hope that we can do it again sometime soon. We all know how precious life can be.

Thanks for coming!


Plane Crashes Happen More Often Than You Think

As part of writing Bracing for Impact, we get daily Google alerts about plane crashes and other news happening in the aviation industry so that we can share interesting stories with our followers on Facebook and Twitter.

What strikes me most is the number of people who are killed everyday in air accidents that no one ever hears about unless the crash happens in their local area. Today, there were seven deaths in the Google arlert; yesterday there were two; the day before that there were nine….and this pattern is typical.

Just this week, a man from Chester, NJ (the sister town to the one I live in) went missing in his small plane.  It took a couple of days, but the rescuers eventurally found the plane near the small strip where he was taking off. And still, many people in my area never heard anything about it.

All of the crashes I’ve mentioned above involve small planes, not commercial airlines which are always front page headlines when they happen.

There are all kids of reasons why.  Most of the NTSB (part of the FAA) investigations will point to pilot error, but this doesn’t tell the whole picture.  Sure pilots need to know how to make an emergency landing when a problem occurs, but this doesn’t negate the fact that the engine failed in the first place.

In the US, the general aviation (non-commercial planes) industry has some pretty powerful federal protections. Manufacturers are protected from liability if something happens on a plane that is 18 years or older even if negligence is involved.  This might not sound unreasonable, but the average age of single-engine planes registered with the FAA is 41 years old.

In addition, there are many known design flaws that contribute to accidents. One example is the bolt failing on Cessna pilot seats that causes the seat to slide back so far, that the pilot can’t reach or control the plane. The military changed the part in their planes in the mid 1970s, but civilian owners have never been required to and most haven’t bothered.

So, if a Cessna crash happens due to the seat sliding back, whose fault is it?

Writing About Plane Crashes

The last year has been an interesting journey.

More or less on a whim, Lindy and I decided last summer to try to put together a collection of stories about fellow plane crash survivors we’d met through Facebook — not just about the crash, but about how such an experience impacted their lives afterward.  I’d started down this path a few years earlier, but had a major health event and had to put the project on hold.  Then, last summer, Lindy insisted that the time was right…and she was right

At first, we thought we’d self-publish and distribute the book just to our Facebook group (which now numbers over 80 people). But before doing so, we put together a formal proposal and sent it out to about 15 publishers. Remarkably, five publishers expressed an interest — and one of them sent a contract.  We were stunned!

The next few months were a whirlwind. We only had a few months to finish the interviews, write and fact check the 200 pages that ultimately became Bracing for Impact: True Tales of Air Disasters and the People Who Survived Them. At times, it felt like we were sprinting down a platform as our train was leaving the station, trying to make sure we could jump on before it left.

The book is schedule to come out in less than two months – in October 2015. We’ve been busy proofing, collecting photographs and other such things.  It is an exciting time for use and we are grateful to everyone who took the time and courage to share their stories with us. Reliving a trauma such as a plane crash is not easy for most people (ourselves included) but perhaps the book will give others insight into what can happen during the aftermath of a crash so that they can be more understanding and empathetic to those who have had a major life trauma — whether it’s a plane crash, experience combat, battling a debilitating disease, or loss of a loved one.

Robin Holleran and Lindy Philip

Let Malaysian Airlines MH370 start to heal

The discovery of a piece from the wing from the missing Malaysian Airlines 370 (MH370) on Reunion Island 17 months after the plane disappeared (and thousands of miles from where it was expected to be found) has, unfortunately, not provided much comfort or closure to the surviving friends and family of the passengers onboard.

Instead conspiracy theories continue to flourish, and this is not helping those that remain behind process their grief or start the healing process.

Crazy as it sounds, a poll done by CNN last year found that one in 10 Americans believe space aliens were responsible for the plane’s disappearance. Other rumors circulate that the wing fragment is a fake.

And let’s not forget the knee-jerk finger pointing at North Korea or Russia  that some believe stole or hijacked the plane…or that the U.S. military shot the hijacked plane down to prevent an attack at one of its military base along the Indian Ocean. Some conspiracy theorists have even concocted elaborate stories based on insurance scams or that the Malaysian Airlines plane MH17 that crashed in a field in the Ukraine was actually the missing MH370 plane that had been hidden until it could deliberately be crashed in the Ukraine to discredit Russia.


In today’s world of hyper social media, it’s nearly impossible to have a private moment even when you really need and try to have one.  Do you really think these cockamamie plans could have been executed without anyone filming or otherwise leaking it? It’s hard enough to believe that the plane could disappear at all, but to be hidden or purposely shot down without word?

Loss of a loved one is hard to process. And these rumors and speculation are only confusing matters further.  It’s time to accept the fact that the world’s oceans are extremely large and often very deep.  If there’s anywhere the remnants of the plane could be hidden, it would be in the ocean, which explains the barnacles that were growing on the piece of wing that was found on Reunion Island.

As painful as it is, it’s also time for people to move on and allow the remaining family and friends to grieve properly without clinging to false hopes.

We truly hope that more of the plane is found and that answers to questions about why or how this tragedy happened comes to the surface.  But in the meantime, let’s be respectful to those who have to live day to day with the pain of having no real answers.

Not a fan of drones!

I understand the use of drones by the military and first responders, but I am NOT a big fan of drones being used by civilians.  What possible good can come out of it?  It’s too tempting for a drone fixed with a camera to invade people’s privacy (and ultra creepy to look your window and realize someone you can’t see or identify is watching you). And lately there have been stories all over the news of drone-owning idiots using them in ways that could be extremely dangerous.

Just this Friday, two planes coming in and out of JFK Airport in NY (one of the busiest airports in the world) flew within 100 feet of a drone!. Are you kidding me!

The loss of life on either the JetBlue or Delta flight would have been catastrophic if that drone had gotten sucked into one of the engines–a real possibility. Whoever was flying their toy could have caused one of those planes to crash and kill everyone on board. The FAA says they have about 25 of these types of incidents every month!

That’s too much – either get those drones off the civilian market or make everyone who has one get a license that requires that anyone can track the drone to its owner.  The anonymity of drones breeds reckless behavior. After all, why not press the envelope if you know there’s no way someone can figure out who is at the other end of the controls.

Here are a few other recent bonehead moves by drone enthusiasts:

And 18-year-old kid attached a gun to his drone and posted a video of him remotely firing off shots!  Was he shooting at people? Animals? Is he crazy?

Drone accidents in New Zealand jumped from 1 four years ago, to 27 last year, to 53 in the first half of 2015…prompting the passage of federal rules to protect everyone else from danger.

A drone was confiscated from a 39-year-old man after it flew within 300 feet of a Lufthansa plane as it was landing in Warsaw. He’s old enough to know better

At this rate, it’s not a question of IF a drone is going to cause an aviation disaster….it’s a question of WHEN.


Paris Hilton should be punished for faking a plane crash

That little plane-crash stunt Paris Hilton posted on YouTube keeps bothering me.

As soon as I saw it, I thought it was a fake.

In Bracing for Impact, we profiled 16 survivors of both large commercial airplane and small plane crashes (including ourselves).  Everyone we spoke to essentially said the same thing.  When you’re in a plane that you think is going to crash, people on board tend to be calm as though they’ve been electrified by fear. When a plane is in trouble, you know you’re going to die.  It’s not an “if” – it’s how do I remember my last moments.

The first thing that struck me as odd in the video is everyone running around yelling.  If a plane is having engine trouble, you run to your seat and buckle up no matter how afraid you are.  That’s self preservation kicking in. And then for the camera to be focusing on Paris Hilton’s face as she keeps fixing her hair and pushing it behind her ear.  Really?  Do you really think anyone about to crash cares what they look like – even someone as vain as she is?  If every hair on my head had been standing straight up off my head like a cartoon character, it wouldn’t have surprised me at al.

There really is no worse thing than being in a plane crash and to see a video of a bunch of spoiled brats pretending to be afraid and making a “joke” about what is often people’s worst fear is a disgrace. Nearly everyone who survives a crash, struggles for years afterward with both psychological and often physical trauma.

To think she got paid $1 million and that so many people may have been in on this prank irks me to no end.  Were they really that desperate for attention?  It’s pathetic.