My Aviation Accident Wound

Dec. 28, 2016

Do fellow Rotary or Kiwanis members ever ask you about a nice, peaceful day at the airport? Or do they ask about the dangers? How many times do non-fliers, or fearful fliers, ask you about the risks of flying? I get that all the time, and have reached the point at which I will admit to having been wounded one time in an aviation accident. In fact, I still limp a bit because of it.

On a Wednesday of long ago, I was headed for a speech — for AOPA I believe — in Pennsylvania. As is typical with flights originating in the Southeast, I had to change flights in Atlanta. Because my inbound flight arrived late in Atlanta, I rushed via escalators, moving sidewalks, trains, and foot trying to get to my departing flight before it left. I dashed — not a pretty sight — from train to escalator where my left ankle was smashed between the escalator wall and a rolling baggage cart.

The pain was absolutely excruciating. I not only wanted to die, I looked forward to the trip! At the top of the escalator I checked my ankle, which was already turning a beautiful array of colors. But I had a speech to make!

I missed that flight, caught another — later — flight, my luggage went who knows where, and I had to drive a rental car from Dulles to Harrisburg. I called my wife and asked her to find a store for big and tall folks close to the Interstate. She did. She always comes through in emergencies.

I rushed into the store and quickly bought a sport jacket, dress shirt, and pants. They had no shoes that fit so I decided to wear the sneakers I had on, planning to make a funny story out of it.

By the time I got to Harrisburg my leg from knee down was all colors. You pick a color — my leg included it. I limped onto the stage, gave the speech and got a lotta laughs out of the wounded leg story.

Then I did die. It was a short death, though, because I had to speak elsewhere the next day. All my clothes were still missing, but I managed somehow.

On Friday I finally returned home and went immediately to see my doctor of long standing. I could tell the leg was bad when all of the nurses came in to see my leg and to ooh and aah. I had never before seen nurses oohing and aahing, en masse, and I was more than slightly worried.

The doctor asked me, with more than a little amazement, “When did this happen?” “Wednesday,” said I. With even more surprise he asked, “Well, why didn’t you come in on Wednesday?” “I had a speech to make in Pennsylvania,” I answered. He was horrified and I was afraid.

“Is it bad?” I asked. He said, “No, don’t worry about it. They make some great artificial legs these days.” As someone said somewhere in the Bible, I was “sore afraid.” Doc did a good job. The leg serves well but never fully recovered.

Y’know, I flew thousands of hours as a pilot, then was a top-ranked pax on Eastern and a Million Miler on Delta. This was my one and only aviation injury.

Today I tell folks not to worry about flying, but watch out for escalators!