Dumb And Dumber

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So how much would you have to be paid to intentionally ditch a perfectly serviceable airplane in the open ocean? Enough to buy a used SUV? We didn’t think so but Theodore Robert Wright III apparently thought it was worth the gamble and what makes his reckless behavior even more despicable is that he had a passenger aboard.

Granted, most ditchings, like his well-publicized event in 2012 off the coast of Texas, don’t have the benefit of a couple of healthy Continentals giving you every option possible to ace the landing, but putting about 5,000 pounds of aluminum arranged at right angles into even the mildest chop is a chancy thing.

Wright pulled it off and he and his accomplice bobbed around in the warm water for a few hours waiting for rescue while his $45,000 Baron settled to the bottom and transformed into a double-your-money bonanza thanks to the $85,000 insurance policy. Wright and his buddy in this incident, plus two others who helped torch a Citation, wreck a Lamborghini and sink a boat, have all pleaded guilty to insurance fraud and all are most likely headed for jail. 

All of the other incidents just killed objects but the ditching raises so many questions that only Wright could answer. It also illustrates a strange chain of events that show a remarkable capability in the systems that keep us safe.

Wright and his unbelievably trusting passenger not only survived the ditching unscathed, due in no small part to standards that regulate the robustness of airframes, they were rescued by a comprehensive network of federal, state and local assets who, at times, seem to exist purely for the purpose of saving idiots from themselves.

Then, an investigative and prosecution process brought those idiots to justice in a pretty satisfying way.

The system doesn’t always work but it mostly does and Theodore Wright will likely have a lot of idle time to consider the ways in which this could have gone a lot worse for him and the guy dumb enough to fly with him.

Comments (10)

When I first saw the title on the above article I thought it was a follow up article on "Icon." Oh well.

Posted by: Thomas Cooke | December 13, 2017 1:57 AM    Report this comment


Posted by: Rafael Sierra | December 13, 2017 3:31 AM    Report this comment

You're not the only one.

Back on topic, I'm reminded that sometimes it's better to be lucky, than it is to be good.

Posted by: Tom Yarsley | December 13, 2017 7:30 AM    Report this comment

Legal issues aside, Wright (oh, the irony) intentionally crashes his Baron in the Gulf for an expected net gain of $40,000.

I wonder what the passenger expected to gain? Oh never mind, the title says it all!

Posted by: A Richie | December 13, 2017 8:40 AM    Report this comment

This got me to musing about the quirks of insurance: My neighbor just suffered a catastrophic engine failure at cruise, fortunately within gliding distance of an airport on which he put it down safely with no damage. Now, having just paid to have it disassembled and trucked home, his expert piloting leaves him with an older bird, a trashed engine with little core value, and no insurance payout. His agent's comment: "great job, but you really should have bellied it in with prop windmilling".

Posted by: John Wilson | December 13, 2017 10:03 AM    Report this comment

From the old folks gallery. I respectfully ask. Can't we have a more educationally demanding topic for discussion?

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | December 13, 2017 4:31 PM    Report this comment

@ John Wilson, yes the temptation is there, and it is strong. But this wide spanning moral low ground is the same reason our health insurance lies in disrepair.

Posted by: Anthony A | December 13, 2017 4:37 PM    Report this comment

Raf, what could be more educationally demanding or intellectually challenging than finding a cure for CRI (Cerebral-Rectal Insertion)? And sometimes you just have to stop and admire stupidity in it's purest form. This guy not only conceives and executes a plan of monumental stupidity but he compounds the lunacy by taking a witness along then making a video.

Posted by: Richard Montague | December 14, 2017 8:06 AM    Report this comment

Oh, thank you Richard. After a cup of coffee and a slap on the forehead I now realize that Mr. Wright III only needed a slightly cleaner business plan. However, going from arson to mud puddles then to open sea landings show promise as they depict an incredible imagination and adaptability. Give the man some credit. I'd say that he has an unrealized ability to do better.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | December 14, 2017 9:26 AM    Report this comment

@ John Wilson - actually, I don't think the agent's advice was very helpful. As I understand it, insurance pays for "accidents", not "failures" or wear-and-tear. Your friend's engine failed at altitude. Insurance may pay for any damage that resulted from the failure, but not for the failure itself.

So, in your friend's case, if he bellied it in with the prop windmilling insurance would pay for a prop and belly skins, but they would not pay for the failed engine that caused the crash. Regardless of the landing outcome, the cost of the engine rebuild was on him the moment it coughed up a piston. *Maybe* the insurance company would still pay for a 'prop-strike' tear-down of the engine, but any parts and repairs not due to the prop strike would still be on the owner.

Unless the agent was slyly suggesting that crashing the plane would've totaled it (value-wise) and triggered an agreed-value payout....

Posted by: Kirk Wennerstrom | December 14, 2017 12:57 PM    Report this comment

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