After the air show crash Bowleys Quarters: Eliminating annual event won't help community beside airfield.

December 06, 1997

FOR MOST RESIDENTS in this region, the Sept. 14 crash of an Air Force stealth fighter jet during a fly-by at a Middle River air show was a spectacular headline, long since forgotten. For the community of Bowleys Quarters, it is unforgettable.

It matters little that the accident was a freak and that no one was killed. The panic that people felt that day has not subsided. The images of that plane falling into a house, then exploding, have traumatized this eastern Baltimore County neighborhood. Naturally, residents of Bowleys Quarters would prefer that they never see another air show. They have asked the Essex-Middle River Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the show, to cancel the event.

We sympathize with the community's emotions, but there is nothing to be gained by such a move. The show brings thousands to the area and provides the chamber with up to one-quarter of its income for community projects.

Statistically, air shows are extremely safe. There have been no spectator fatalities in the U.S. in 50 years, due to regulations confining risky stunt maneuvers to areas without people below and to the rarity of fly-by disasters.

You could argue that it makes sense to postpone the event until Bowleys Quarters heals a bit. But getting rid of a once-a-year air show as a concession to people who have become fearful of planes is pointless considering that they still live next to Martin State Airport.

The Maryland Air National Guard flies planes from Martin every day (though, contrary to perception, the number is fewer than ever). Residents complain the sights and sounds remind them of the crash, but other than insist that the guard follow noise and safety regulations, there is little to be done about this.

These people need counseling. A crisis management team headed by the University of Maryland Medical System, including the Air Force and American Red Cross, aided Bowleys Quarters after the crash and will provide long-term assistance. Residents should not hesitate to avail themselves of the service. (The Baltimore County Office of Emergency Preparedness, 410-887-5996, can provide a referral.)

Pub Date: 12/06/97

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