Welcome to Flightinfo.com

  • Register now and join the discussion
  • Friendliest aviation Ccmmunity on the web
  • Modern site for PC's, Phones, Tablets - no 3rd party apps required
  • Ask questions, help others, promote aviation
  • Share the passion for aviation
  • Invite everyone to Flightinfo.com and let's have fun

Yet another tragedy

Welcome to Flightinfo.com

  • Register now and join the discussion
  • Modern secure site, no 3rd party apps required
  • Invite your friends
  • Share the passion of aviation
  • Friendliest aviation community on the web


Feb 24, 2002

I don't know if this was posted here yet or not, but a former colleague of mine was killed in a recent crash in Northern California, story and link below.


Federal aviation investigators were trying to figure out Tuesday what
> caused an aerobatic airplane to crash at the Oroville Municipal
> Airport during a training session a day earlier.
> Butte County officials had not yet identified the bodies. However,
> Nevada County flight afficcionados believed the airplane's flight
> instructor was Gary "Bear" Smith, 63, of Grass Valley. His student was
> believed to be from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. Officials did say next of
> kin had been notified.
> Smith had been a decorated Vietnam-era Navy pilot who flew more than
> 300 missions. Later, he was selected to fly with the celebrated Blue
> Angels Navy aerobatic demonstration team.
> The yellow-and-white plane Smith and his student were flying, a 2002
> American Champion Super Decathlon, took off from Nevada County Airport
> at about 2 p.m. Monday for a training session, local airport manager
> Greg Marshall said.
> The Super Decathlon is a light-weight craft with a tubular metal
> fusilage covered with cloth. It is designed for advanced aerobatics.
> A yellow-and-white plane of that sort was seen Monday afternoon at the
> Oroville Municipal Airport, said Eric Teitelman, airport manager
> there. "They were doing touch-and-goes and aerobatics," Teitelman
> said.
> At about 2:45 p.m., the plane rose straight into the air, then dove
> straight down into a nearby meadow off Larkin Road, according to a
> witness report published Tuesday in the Oroville Mercury-Register. The
> fire caused a small fire in the vegetation in the field about a
> half-mile south-east of the airport.
> "It was climbing and then just stopped climbing and turned back down
> with its nose first and headed straight down to the ground," witness
> Shirley Sherron of Biggs told the Mercury-Register.
> "That was not a pretty sight," Teitelman said. The craft was burned so
> badly that the registration numbers were destroyed, delaying the
> plane's identification.
> Smith had been had been an instructor-pilot and certified charter
> pilot for about a year at Alpine Aviation near the Nevada County
> Airport, school owner Gordon Mills said.
> "The (Federal Aviation Administration) confirmed it was our airplane.
> We do not have confirmation on the bodies untiil the Butte County
> Coronor positively identifies the bodies," Mills said.
> The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the
> accident, Mills added.
> Butte County Chief Deputy Coroner John Kuhn said he expected a
> tentative identification later today. On Wednesday, he will perform an
> autopsy, using dental records to positively identify the bodies, he
> said.
> Mills said an accident of this type "is very unusual" for Nevada
> County pilots.
> "We've strived and worked very hard for this not to happen. We've
> never had an incident like this (at Alpine Aviation). Never," Mills
> said.

I believe this happaned on the 10th.

Bear was a test pilot at McDonnell Douglas/Boeing in Long Beach before retiring to Northern California. Heck of a nice guy who'd had a pretty amazing career in aviation.

May God rest his soul.

Wow...sad to see another pilot and student killed. From reading the bio on the instructor, he sounded like a really neat and capable pilot guy.
Sorry for your loss TP

Sounds like a great guy who wanted to have a little fun during his retirement.

That's my kind of retirement gig.

Best thoughts for his friends and family.

Latest posts

Latest resources