Familiar with the persona of Jason Dahl, David Dosch has no doubt that his friend would have resisted till the end. Dosch describes Dahl as an omnipotent force. He was a workaholic who enjoyed the fun aspects of life, one of them being a love for sports cars. Dahl was a check airman for United. Just prior to 9/11, he was transitioning back to regular line flying. Sadly, Dahl had traded his original trip in order to have the time off to celebrate his fifth wedding anniversary with his wife in London.
In an eerie twist of fate, Dahl had brought his son to Dosch’s 767 recurrent training session almost one month prior to 9/11. After the son had been subjected to the abuses of engine failures and other such emergencies in the simulator, Dosch announced that he would resume flying. Dahl remained at the simulator control panel. With the virtual reality of a New York City skyline displayed, Dosch flew a knife-edge pass between the Twin Towers. The memory of that innocent day still sends a chill through Dosch’s spine.
Despite the personal loss experienced by the Dahl family, a positive outcome has arisen from Dahl’s death. With the help of Dosch and many others, Sandy Dahl, Jason’s wife and a former flight attendant, have been managing a scholarship fund. The scholarship’s purpose is to provide finances for a student pursuing a professional flying career. An applicant is required to complete an essay titled “Why I Want to Fly.” Dahl had done exactly the same at his alma mater, San Jose State. Anyone at almost any university flight school can apply. Visit the website at dahlfund.org.
With 10 years having passed in the blink of an eye, have we learned from our mistakes? Are we providing a more secure product for our customers? I would like to think so. Regardless of new regulations, the creation of the TSA, full-body scanners, carry-on restrictions, air marshals, armed pilots, etc., the real improvements aren’t visible. The real improvements are in the minds of the flight crews.
The judgment that empowers us to safely operate the airplane also empowers us to make subjective decisions about our passengers. Be assured that most crews would rather suffer the embarrassment of political incorrectness than become another terrorist statistic.
Even with this post-9/11 attitude change, complacency occurs. Complacency is one of our biggest enemies. The bad guys are betting on it. Perhaps we can remain one step ahead of terrorist creativity rather than one step behind. Security procedures seem to reflect our reaction to the prior terrorist attempt. Shoe bomber: All passengers remove footwear for screening. Underwear bomber: Well, you get the point. Regardless, we can never let our guard down.
Hopefully, we are moving forward to a future that doesn’t include suicide underwear bombers. Until that time, airline crews will continue with their best efforts in keeping passengers safe. As for Sept. 11, 2001, none of us will ever forget.