Chief Pilot at Retail Aviation
I never got a chance to fly with Larry Newby,
RedTail Aviation Chief Pilot at Canyonlands Field (CNY)
near Moab, Utah.
I bumped into him several times in my twice-a-year visits
and flew with one of his mentors, LaVar Wells, a few times.
Over the past five years,
I have become familiar with the Utah backcountry
near Canyonlands, Larry's home turf.
By reputation from people I know and trust,
Larry was the consummate back-country pilot
with skill and judgment the rest of us could look up to.
I enjoyed our conversations and learned from them.
He communicated a love of flying and the local geology.
On 2012 April 25,
Larry and two Texas guests, a father and son pair,
Wade and Kyle Richardson,
were flying a Cessna 185 that crashed
in the Dark Canyon area south of Moab
and east of Hite at the north end of Lake Powell.
Speculation they were near the Dark Canyon Plateau airstrip
gave way to reports they were further south in one of the canyons.
It was a gusty Wednesday in southeast Utah,
not an easy day for back-country flying,
but a day that seemed well within the skills of an expert pilot.
While we don't know exactly what happened,
I don't think Larry was trying to land anywhere.
Maybe he was caught in a canyon wind shear
without enough altitude or airspeed to keep away from the rocks.
If there's a lesson here,
then it's not that we should be better, smarter, or more-careful
pilots than Larry Newby.
If there are any pilots better, smarter, or more-careful than Larry,
then they still aren't better, smarter, or more-careful enough
to prevent what happened.
The important message is that aviation is humbling sometimes
and that any of us can get caught with our pants down
by wind, weather, mechanical issues, or general bad luck.
We have to make judicious choices of how much scenery we want to see
and how much we want to do within the envelope of risk we accept.
It can happen to any of us, anytime, anywhere,
and we all have to be careful and diligent.
Larry died doing what he loved,
sharing the breathtaking beauty of the southeast-Utah backcountry
with eager guests.
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