My story begins on July 9, 2001 when I lost a great friend, Clark, due to a helicopter crash on the New River in North Carolina. The accident that cost my friend his life was merely a twelve second human error inside the aircraft.
Clark was my ‘combat crew chief’, we had been assigned to fly with each other for years, including Operation Allied Force in Kosovo. There is a special bond that is formed between a pilot and his crew chief in the Marine Corps. I knew that Clark always had my back no matter what.
I stopped and talked to Clark while I was walking to my aircraft. I asked him why we were not flying together. He assured me that we would be flying together the next night. Unfortunately, we would never fly together again.
During the training flight, the the non-flying pilot, wearing night vision goggles, reached up and turned on the interior light while trying to level the air craft back out. Of course with the night vision goggles on the flood of light in the cabin blinded him and the crew. From that moment it only took a few more seconds until the helicopter crashed in the river. Some of the crew survived, but my friend Clark did not.
The year before this tragic accident another CH-46E had a mishap that was almost identical to the one that took Clark’s life. The lessons learned were not properly shared outside of that squadron. There is no way to for sure know if transferring that experience and knowledge would have changed the outcome from that on July 9, 2001, but I know I would have done anything to still be able to fly with Clark today!
Two days after the mishap I was sitting out on the practice shipboard landing deck looking at the aircraft sticking out of the water. I made a promise to myself at that moment that I would do whatever I could to help Marines make better decision and avoid human error. Tears streaked my face because I knew that this was something that Clark would have wanted. He was tough on his Marines. He was tough on them in a good way. He was a leader who never wanted to see anything bad happen to anyone.
Convene Training Allows the Sharing of Experiences
It has been over thirteen years since that night. I can remember it like it was yesterday. The events of that night set in motion the Convene Training program that I now dedicate to Clark. Convene Training is an application that will allow people to share and learn from the experience of others. This app will change the landscape of how people train. As a helicopter pilot for Air Care, I work with First Responders every day from all over the country. I see these brave men and women do extraordinary things. I have seen them save lives. I have seen some of the most amazing stories unfold in front of my eyes. First Responders will now be able to be part of a shared learning, social community from all across the entire world. These stories and scenarios will save lives!