Yet another tragedy


Feb 24, 2002
Total Time

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.



Freight Dawgs Rule
Dec 17, 2003
Total Time
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.


Remember this one?
Nov 27, 2001
Total Time
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.