First, take a deep breath....
Yes, we had a very unhappy person chose to take their life today in an act of suicide-by-airplane that, beyond that selfishness, attempted to make it a murder-suicide act. With one person still missing and two admitted to a Level One trauma center in Austin, Texas, site of this insanity, we do not yet know whether the apparent perpetrator indeed succeeded in that part of his plot.
Thanks to what apparently is a posting of his own accounting of his life leading to today's act, we feel comfortable offering what should be one obvious conclusion -- obvious largely because it's directly observable from the news footage: photographic proof that small airplanes are ineffective as tools of mass destruction or viable weapons against modern office buildings. That doesn't take away from the very real potential for loss of life and sundry other mayhem when airplanes crash into residential buildings; actual accidents earlier this week remind us clearly. But as a machine for repeating a Twin Towers-like attack, general aviation aircraft generally lack the mass, the velocity and the fuel capacity to remotely threaten damage on the level of a wide-body airliner flown beyond redline. Look at the images.
A couple of other points seem worth noting before the hyperventilating starts to make pundits hypoxic.
First, sadly, this event shows once again that people sometimes break under the lives they endure -- and in breaking decide to lash out against the world that they feel failed them. The apparent perpetrator's own words reinforce this. Read it for yourself:
Second, nothing said or written or viewed today can change the awful fact that someone apparently employed a general-aviation aircraft to close out grievances, with horrible results for him and some of the IRS employees working in the federal building.
Today marks only the opening of this chapter. How long it will run remains to be seen; probably as long as it takes the popular press, the politicians and the conflict profiteers to run through their interest level -- or until something more horrendous bumps this off the news...whichever comes first.
But whatever comes of this, what should not come of this is renewal of misguided efforts to "secure" general aviation airports, aircraft and users. Unless someone can offer up a solution capable of preventing people from venturing over the edge -- something applicable to drivers and divers and bikers and boaters as well as pilots -- nothing could have stopped this guy.
Sadly, whether a lunchroom shooting, a mall mass murder, white guys blowing up a federal building, religious extremists assassinating doctors or bringing down airliners, or a lone frustrated citizen with a little airplane, society still lacks a tool to stop an individual determined to do harm.
It's impossible for me to put myself in this guy's shoes. And a few deep breaths to clear the mind makes dealing with this no clearer or easier. But the deep breathing does help focus the mind where it should. So let's keep the focus on the mind, not the machine; in this tragic affair, the mind behind the act is solely responsible, not the machine he chose to inflict his final statement.
With thoughts for the families of those touched by this in Austin,