In Honor of Dr. Dan

In Honor of Dr. Dan

Jared Jacobs and Dr. Dan Greenwald.

It has been difficult for me to sit down and write this month’s briefing, as I know typing these words will ultimately make everything more real. But I feel compelled to share a reality my husband and I recently experienced in the hope it will impact our readers in a positive way.  

This past October, surgeon, pilot, and our friend, Dr. Daniel Greenwald crashed and perished in a Piper Aerostar shortly after takeoff in Kokomo, Indiana. He was the sole occupant on board. The suspected cause of the crash? Misfueling. The piston-powered Aerostar was mistakenly filled with Jet A. 

My husband Jared and I met Dan nearly a year ago when we traveled to Tampa upon his invitation to provide Jared (a professional pilot) with a lesson in upset recovery and aerobatics. Though a full-time surgeon, Dan was also an active Unlimited Aerobatic Flight Instructor and former FAA Designated Pilot Examiner, with more than 10,000 hours of flight time. He provided instruction through his business Angle of Attack Experience using his personal L-39 Albatros and Extra 330. 

Dan’s passion and knowledge for flying was absolutely undeniable, and we had a blast spending an entire day among him and his local aviation community. The trip ultimately led to three Twin & Turbine articles, including the February cover story (L-39 Albatros) and a two-part series written by Jared on his flying experience (June and September issue). It was clear when we departed Tampa that we had made a new friend, and we continued to stay in touch with Dan over the following months.  

The news of Dan’s accident and the supposed cause remains shocking. It is a first for Jared and me to lose someone we know to an aircraft accident, and it’s amazing the effect it has had on us despite only knowing Dan for a short period. It feels especially unfair that someone with such admirable aviation experience and flying skills lost his life to a preventable mistake. Since this tragedy, I’ve spent some time digging into and researching misfuelings, an issue that has been battled for decades. 

Over the years, the industry has taken various steps to confront the problem including airworthiness directives to restrict the tank port size, producing color-coded decals to place next to the fuel ports, releasing service bulletins and offering free fuel-tank port restrictors. The National Air Transportation Association (NATA) has also made eliminating misfueling accidents a top priority and urges all FBOs to access NATA’s free Misfueling Prevention Program (www.preventmisfueling.com). The site offers beneficial information and resources for line service professionals, customer service representatives, FBO managers and pilots. 

If I can suggest a call to action – talk to your local FBOs and airport managers. See what their training protocol is to promote a safety-focused culture. One example of a safety-forward culture is Banyan Air Services out of Ft Lauderdale Executive in Florida. They have a list of 30 simple safety reminders – they send one daily to all line service and CSR staff, which they review as a team. Simple things, like “Do not step over it, pick it up,” and “If you do not remember how to do a task, stop and ask for help.” But as we’ve seen, simple things gone wrong can go terribly wrong. We’ll be sharing their safety reminders on our website where the December issue can be found. Share the link or print it out for your airfield. 

While it certainly would have been easier to address another, more positive topic this month, I felt pulled to write these words. Hopefully, shining light on one tragedy can prevent others – and I feel Dan, who dedicated his life to serving others, would encourage the effort. 

I will now turn it over to Jared, who was fortunate to share a cockpit with Dr. Dan. He wishes to add some words of remembrance as well.

I guess you could say that I was one of the lucky ones. After 11 years as an active member of the aviation community, I had never lost a friend to an aviation-related accident. Sadly, that changed recently when I learned of the passing of Dr. Daniel Greenwald. The shocking loss came only a month after the conclusion of a two-part story I wrote regarding my training with Dan last January. 

Dan, an accomplished aerobatic pilot (among many other things), shared with me his love for aviation, specifically for teaching people how to safely explore the edges of the flight envelope. In a single day, through oral lessons and hands-on experiences, I learned more about aerodynamics than in any other training event before. Dan had a spark in him when it came to teaching these topics. He had a way of enthusiastically explaining his lessons, questioning for retention, and then expanding the topic to connect with others. His depth of knowledge, much like his skills in acrobatic flying, seemed to know no limits.

Dan’s zeal was infectious, so it is no surprise that his influence spread to many like-minded individuals in the Tampa Bay and Lakeland area. So proud of his aviation community, he even generously organized a BBQ for Rebecca and me at the Lakeland airport during our visit. While there, I heard stories from multiple pilots how Dan was the source of their aviation bug, or about the hours of instruction he provided, or the unforgettable trips they had been on together. I know that Dan’s aviation legacy will live on through this tightknit network of friends. And after becoming fast friends with Dan myself, I too have stories that I will be telling of my time with him for the rest of my life.

I started this segment by saying I was one of the lucky to have never lost a friend in an aviation accident. Though I can no longer say those words, I can say that I was one of the lucky ones to have been friends with Dr. Daniel Greenwald.

Blue skies and tailwinds, Dr. Dan. You are missed. 

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