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.