Back on November 15, 2007 a good friend and pilot died in a plane crash. He was the CFI on board a Piper PA-28. His name is Robert Davey. Before this incident I flew with him while he was at ATP. I was a new CFI and he needed to be checked out prior to being sent on his IFR Cross Countries. We flew for 5 hours together in a Piper Seminole. I remember that flight pretty well. We were flying across the state at night when one of the alternators quit. No big deal. We have two on board the Seminole.
We tried turning it off and back on....no joy. Being night time, we decided to turn off stuff we didn't need to lighten the load on the remaining alternator. The rest of the flight went ok until he lined up for landing. As he lowered the gear the other alternator spiked and went off line. Thankfully we were already lined up with the runway and he made a normal landing.
Robert was former military. He was a truly great guy and would do anything to help someone out. I never saw him without a smile on his face.
When he was done with ATP he decided to instruct at a different flight school. I saw him every now and then as it was close by. He told me stories of how things were at his flight school and what he had been up to. Apparently he had been performing maneuvers in planes that I would deem risky. Maneuvers like barrel rolls, flying under tree lines following rivers, full throttle low passes over runways...stuff like that. I say they were risky because they were being done in general aviation aircraft and not aerobatic aircraft. He once told me he has rolled every aircraft at that flight school.
When I heard of the plane crash I couldn't help but think he might have been testing the limits of the aircraft. Initial reports were that the plane broke up in mid-air. The day was a beautiful VFR day. One of those days when you are just itching to get up and fly. How could a plane crash on such a beautiful day?
When I was told of his funeral I was still in ground school at my airline. I couldn't make the funeral but I could make the wake. The room was full of friends and family. Robert had two young daughters I believe. Robert was my first friend to fly west.
The final NTSB report was published. Reading through it I just started shaking my head. Sure enough details about Robert's aerobatic maneuvers came up. The accident should have never happened. Three aviators died when they didn't have to.
If you care to read the report here is the link : http://www.ntsb.gov/aviationquery/brief.aspx?ev_id=20071119X01812
Be careful out there.