In August 2019, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was involved in a plane crash with his wife, Amy, their 1-year-old daughter Isla and two pilots when the plane rolled off the runway, crashed and caught fire in Bristol, Tennessee. Speaking to reporters on Sunday before the Daytona 500, Earnhardt Jr. shared how the crash has changed the way he approaches flying, explaining that he is now seeking to become as knowledgeable as he can.
"It's really tough for me to get back in the plane and it will never be the same now that you know the real realities and dangers," he said, via NBC Sports. "It will never, ever be the same again. It's something youll never be able to forget and never lock out no matter how many flights you take.
"The only thing I can do... is before I flew I didn't inquire about the weather or any details, any technical information about the length of the runaway we're flying into," he continued. "I didn't know the performance of my own plane as far as its ability to land and take off and what kind of airstrips that it could do and couldn't do that. There's a lot of things that I just didn't even think about and I just left it up to our guys that were flying the plane, that if they were comfortable I was comfortable."
Everyone on board the plane escaped the crash and Earnhardt Jr. was uninjured. The 45-year-old explained that he has been focused on learning as much as he can about the situation he is putting himself in when he flies, short of becoming a pilot.
"I'm diving into the deep end to learn everything I can about the plane's ability and the decisions they make and why they make it," he shared. "It's been extremely educational as you can imagine. I've learned so much in such a short period of time. It's kind of empowered me and give me more confidence in what we're doing and that we are safe and that I am going to be safe. I don't want to just quit flying. I don't want to just quit getting into an airplane. I need to get over that fear and work hard to get through it."
"The only way I can do that is by knowing everything I can possibly know about the exact trip we're going to take and so that's helped me a lot," the father of one explained. "I'm learning so much every single time we take off and land. I've learned more about what we're doing and why we're doing it and the decisions they make. Now I'm a bit more involved in the trips we take and what I'm willing to do and not do when it comes to weather and what airports we're flying in and out of and I'm extremely overly safe on my some of those decisions and it's been probably annoying to my pilots, they would never admit to that, but I have to sort of figure this out on my own and it's working out pretty good so far."
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