Saturday, July 23, 2005

Airplane Crash Involves Deaf Pilots

I like how the Olathe news has a weekly columnist, Leonard Hall, who writes for the deaf community. How many other newspapers have weekly columnists for the deaf community?

On another note, I hope that the pilot and other passenger recover from their injuries without permanent changes.


From the newsroom of the Olathe News, Olathe, Kansas, Thursday, July 7, 2005 .....

Airplane Crash Involves Deaf Pilots

By Leonard Hall

Two weeks ago at the national Deaf Pilots Association fly-in event, a deaf pilot with two former Johnson County deaf residents crashed at the Katama Airfield on Martha's Vineyard Island near Boston, Massachusetts. The former residents were Jeff Willoughby and his teenage daughter, Jessica.

The deaf pilot, Mr. Naiman, and the passengers suffered broken legs and other serious injuries at the airport located on Martha's Vineyard Island. The pilot is still in critical condition. Jeff was recently released from the hospital and Jessica is still improving in the hospital.

The convention was at Martha's Vineyard Island, where during the late 1800s, there was a large deaf community and it was considered normal to be deaf living on the island.

The crashed plane was one of the 11 small planes used by the deaf pilots with the Deaf Pilots Association convention as part of the week long convention where deaf people fly in from across the country.

The national media and FAA have been following the crash as it highlighted the issue of deaf pilots and even hearing pilots without radio in their small airplane flying into untowered airports.

In the crash, the deaf pilot was preparing to land his plane on one of the two runways that shared the same starting points. A biplane was coming on the runway that forced the deaf pilot to abort the landing by pulling up abruptly and to attempt a go-around.

While the deaf pilot was trying to pull up the plane, the plane stalled and crashed.

There was a big debate about who had the right-of-way to land or take off from the airfield.

One party said that an aircraft on final approach has priority at a non-towered airport. He said it may be pilot error but it was not caused by his deafness.

Another party said that an airplane going onto the runway to take off would have the right-of-way.

FAA became concerned as a number of small airplanes without radio continued to land at the airport while it was closed after the crash. The airport had been unable to notify other planes that the airport was closed due to the crash.

FAA issues pilot certificates to deaf pilots. The deaf pilots are restricted to flying into uncontrolled or non-towered airports or airports that do not require radio communications for landings or takeoffs. The airport in Gardner, Kansas is a non-towered airport where deaf pilots have landed during the last Deaf Pilot Association conference in Kansas City several years ago.

There are the "visual flight rules" that allow deaf pilots and hearing pilots without radio to use about 4,500 non-towered airports across the country. The federal rules allow pilots to fly into most airports by sight alone.

Most pilots including deaf pilots operate safely under visual flight rules. There is no difference between a deaf pilot and a hearing pilot flying an aircraft not equipped with a radio.

(Leonard Hall write a weekly column for the deaf community. He can be reached at

Copyright 2005 Olathe News