Most people involved in the aviation industry are truly passionate about the work they do. In no pilot is this passion more evident than in Dr. Barry Hyde. Hyde has loved aviation for as long as he can remember. As a young boy, his older cousin, a pilot, would take him up for leisure rides. This sort of regular, meaningful, and exciting exposure to the cockpit hooked Hyde, and still to this day it has not let up. By 26 years old, he was an accomplished flight instructor and commercial pilot with over 1,600 hours in his logbook.
Unfortunately, Hyde’s life and career plans changed dramatically when he was involved in a near-fatal plane crash outside Floyd, Virginia. In his words, “My life was ruined on June 1, 1998.” Hyde was invited as a safety pilot so the other pilot could practice instrument approaches. While cruising at 10,500 feet, the Piper PA-30 Twin Comanche lost power in the right engine. The pilot-in-command contacted Roanoke Approach Control for advisories, asking to be given priority to land at the Roanoke airport (ROA), 45 miles away. Roanoke Approach Control advised of three other airports, all closer than ROA, but the pilot declined and pressed onward. The plane crashed into trees, still 30 miles from ROA.
The National Transportation Safety Board investigation revealed that the pilot-in-command failed to perform an adequate pre-flight check and the plane did not have enough fuel prior to takeoff.
What followed for Hyde was nothing short of a miracle. Paramedics who arrived at the wreckage were able to intubate him at the scene and keep him breathing for the time being. He was initially pronounced dead-on-arrival and was in such poor condition that his father fainted when he came to identify him at the hospital. Hyde was in a coma for 20 days. The doctors, fearing he wouldn’t last long in that condition, allowed his friends and family to visit and leave cards and flowers. Somehow, Hyde survived, but not without extreme personal cost.
“My life drastically changed due to the brain injury and 14 broken bones,” Hyde said. “I lost my smell, taste, and sight. My left side of my body was paralyzed, both lungs collapsed, my right leg was broken in four places, and I had a broken lumbar.” He remained in the hospital for two and a half months. There was still plenty more speech, cognitive, and physical therapy ahead of him, but even if it were possible for Hyde to make a complete physical recovery, his lack of sight cemented the fact that he would never fly a plane again.
Hyde struggled with severe short-term memory loss after the crash. His mother and he sought ways to strengthen his memory recall, which led them to return to his Gleim pilot training materials. Every day, she recited material from the very same books Hyde studied from to prepare to pass the FAA Knowledge Tests. As he slowly “exercised” his brain, Hyde’s memory improved and his love for aviation persisted. “Now, I’m a personal salesman for Gleim products, since I can share such great testimony about how the material assisted me in passing written tests for the FAA, before and after the accident.” Hyde is convinced that if Gleim materials can work successfully in a case as bad as his own, anyone can use them.
Despite his blindness, Hyde went on to earn his Advanced Ground Instructor and Instrument Ground Instructor certificates just two years after the crash, becoming the first and likely still the only blind person the FAA has accommodated for a test. But how could he return to the industry that caused him so much pain and grief? “Aviation is what I loved as a kid and flying as a passenger is still the most fun thing I can do,” Hyde said. He makes this important distinction, though: “I’m not disgruntled with aviation. I am disgruntled with pilot negligence.”
Hyde makes it well known that he has a personal vendetta against pilot negligence. Still, he does not completely absolve himself of guilt for the way things happened twenty years ago. Hyde said that when he spoke to the pilot-in-command about his pre-flight checklist before takeoff there were warning signs, even then, that Hyde knows should have prompted him to perform his own pre-flight evaluation.
Hyde’s determination to prevent other pilots from experiencing his hardships, or possibly even dying, proved to be a driving force in his rehabilitation and subsequent education. He earned $88,000 in scholarship awards, culminating in a Master’s degree in Aeronautics – Aviation Safety & Aviation Operations and a DBA in Business Administration. The DBA process took ten years while Hyde worked a job, conducted research, and got married. Hyde remarked that, because he was such a self-starter, others were able to see what he was trying to accomplish and lend a helping hand. Often in his case, that helping hand was a pair of eyes. “I have many goals to accomplish and one is to share my accident so that if other pilots encounter the situation I did, they will know to land the airplane first and then ask questions.”
Now, Hyde works on the FAA Safety Team as the point of contact for the team’s Industry Member program. In this role, Hyde communicates with various industry members, from educators like Gleim to major airlines, in order to keep industry members up to date on things that are happening at the FAA headquarters in Washington, D.C. The FAA Safety Team also collaborates with industry members to develop safety training and industry best practices. The FAA routinely sends Dr. Hyde to events where he is given the chance to share his story with pilots and other aviation workers to emphasize the importance of pre-flight checklists and safety overall.
Someday, Hyde hopes to join the National Transportation Safety Board and assist in investigations. Perhaps ironically, the accident that took away his sight has given Hyde a keen sense for spotting pilot errors and a unique perspective on what may have been going on in the cockpit before an incident. This is, of course, strongly backed by his years of research and work experience in aviation safety. He has written an autobiography detailing the crash and his work in aviation safety but has been so busy enjoying his post-DBA free time that he hasn’t taken time to secure a publisher yet.
To look back on Hyde’s career and simply remark that “Barry Hyde suffered a tragedy but went on to be successful” would be an incredible understatement. Hyde has accumulated some truly spectacular achievements in the twenty years since the accident. While he has made the best of an unfortunate situation, he doesn’t want people to focus so much on his accomplishments that they lose sight of what put him in this position in the first place: pilot negligence. For Hyde, if he can convince pilots to take pre-flight checks more seriously and shift their mentality so that they habitually conduct those checks every time they fly, he’ll have succeeded in his true goal of promoting pilot safety.
About Gleim Aviation
Since 1980, Gleim Aviation’s team of pilots, instructors, writers, designers, and programmers has helped aviators pass millions of FAA knowledge and practical tests using the unique Gleim Knowledge Transfer System. Gleim is an environmentally-friendly company headquartered in Gainesville, FL.