Q&A: Buck Roetman on the aftermath of his plane crash

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In over 35 years of flying, pilot Buck Roetman had never put so much as a scratch on a plane -- until recently. While flying at an air-show preview in Idaho a few weeks ago, Roetman's plane suffered a system failure and crashed, wrecking the aircraft but leaving the pilot with only minor injuries. Roetman was scheduled to fly in the Highest Air Shows in Breckenridge and Dillon tomorrow, but due to that crash he'll be on the ground instead, helping air boss the event as flying partner Gary Rower attempts a world record.

We caught up with Roetman to talk about the accident, watching a YouTube video of the crash in the emergency room, and getting up in the air again.

Westword: How are you feeling? Buck Roetman: Good! The ankle's still a little bit sore but I'm gonna go fly here in about an hour.

What happened, exactly? Why did the plane crash?

We don't know completely. It was a combination of things like there always is, but there was a loss of thrust for some reason and then I was just too low to recover.

What does that feel like when you're flying? Jeez, I don't know. You're too busy flying the airplane trying to get it back right-side-up to really think too much about it. You know, a lot of folks have asked if I was scared and I really didn't have time. I was too busy trying to fly the airplane, because I knew if I quit flying it that it was really gonna be ugly.

How were you able to maneuver the plane so that you didn't get hurt?

Honestly, the grace of God. [Laughs]. The important thing is I've been through a lot of training and a lot of working with a lot of other folks. You can't stop flying the airplane. If you stall the airplane or hit upside down, you're gonna die and the airplane had been modified for airshow work to the point where it was very, very maneuverable so it would actually get itself back right-side-up and it hit in a controlled, upright attitude, and that was huge.

Have you been flying since the crash or is this the first time?

No, I haven't been. The ankle hasn't been up to snuff yet to really feel safe about going flying. But this airplane's pretty easy with the rudder work, which is what you steer it with, so it should be fine. I'm about to drive myself nuts. I need to go fly.

Do you have any fear about getting up in the air again?

No. Nope.

Click to the next page for a video of the crash.

Have you watched the video on YouTube of your plane crashing?

Oh, believe me, yeah. [Laughs]. We watched it in the emergency room.

Wow. Who took that video?

I don't know. Within ten minutes it was apparently posted on YouTube. What is it like to watch the video? It was really different, especially from the different angles, you know. Some things showed some things, it was different. Especially having ridden through it, it was kinda weird looking at it.

It's interesting that it was up online so fast.

What's really scary about it is one of the things I've been recommended by friends is that when you go to a show, you need to have an emergency contact number if your significant other isn't at the show, that somebody can call someone to go talk to them because some fool is gonna call. You don't want your husband or your wife to hear about something like this from a reporter or a TV station. And the thing is with the electronic media the way it is right now, if somebody doesn't get their butt over there they're gonna. My phone started ringing at two o'clock in the morning the night of the accident and my kids and my dad and my wife's phones were ringing all night, too. It's scary how fast people can come up with your cell phone number and your kids' phone numbers and your dad's.

What do you want people to know about the crash and take away from your story?

The biggest thing is that the safety things that we have in place work. And again, the important thing is that if I get hurt, I get hurt. This is something I do. I know about it when I get in the airplane. The important thing is that the crowds are safe and this is something that you can bring your husband or wife or kids and family out to, and they'll be safe. When an airplane crashes it is something newsworthy, but how many people die in auto racing every year? Or bicycles? Or bee stings? And they just don't make the news. Aviation is my passion and it's just something I want to do and thankfully we've still got the freedom to do it in this country.

What do you like about flying?

Boy, that's hard to say. It's a passion thing. It's like you with the writing and things that you do. You don't do them strictly for the money or anything else, you know, it's something that you just flat enjoy doing and that's what flying is.

What do you have planned for the future? Are you going to do everything you used to in the air? Yeah. I'm gonna try. I'm waiting for the insurance company to finish up and I've been on Barnstormers looking at different airplanes and there's a couple of different ways to go. Everything that happens can create opportunities, too. So there's one thing that we'd like to see happen and it'll be an opportunity to actually improve the show and a few other things. New challenges, new day.

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