A respected Nevada pilot who for several years has been a prime mover behind the Lakeport-based seaplane festival has been killed in a crash in the United Arab Emirates.
Chuck Kimes, 61, of Zephyr Cove, Nev., was with three other pilots bringing a 1940s-era seaplane from the Middle East to Texas when the deadly crash occurred Sunday evening at Abu Dhabi's Al Ain International Airport.
Traveling with Kimes were Tyler Orsow of Angels Camp, Calif., who turned 25 on the day of the fatal crash; and Texans Landon Studer and Joshua Hucklebridge, according to media reports and statements by friends on Facebook and other Internet sites.
An account printed in The National, a United Arab Emirates newspaper, said the four men were taking the vintage Aleutian Goose seaplane on a trip that would see them traveling through Saudi Arabia, Morocco and South America, with plans to land in Texas next week.
The United Arab Emirates' General Civil Aviation Authority issued a report Monday that explained that the four men were departing from Al Ain for Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in a Grumman 21T aircraft just after 8 p.m. Sunday.
“Shortly after liftoff the aircraft veered to the left and crashed on taxiway kilo,” the report stated.
The General Civil Aviation Authority reported that airport fire and rescue services responded immediately and the accident site was secured by the Al Ain Police.
“The aircraft was destroyed by the impact and subsequent fire,” reported the agency, which dispatched an air accident investigation team to the crash scene.
Additional details about the cause of the crash have not yet been released by officials. It's also not clear at this point which of the men was piloting the craft.
An eyewitness report quoted on a seaplane forum stated that the plane was airborne at about 200 feet when it started a left turn, pitched down and cartwheeled, leading to the crash.
Kimes had been a flight instructor for close to four decades, serving during that time as a captain for American Airlines. He had even flown the world's largest seaplane, according to the biography on his company Web site, www.seaplaneops.com .
The biography also noted that he instructed pilots on flying the Albatross seaplane at the US Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base.
The site also stated that Kimes had “developed an extensive array of manuals and training programs to support the safe operation of the Albatross and other seaplanes,” and was one of the highest-time Albatross pilots still flying the aircraft.
Kimes had become a well-known figure in Lake County where, for several years, he has chaired the annual Clear Lake Splash-In, which sees dozens of seaplanes converge on Lakeport from around the country.
This year's festival, the 32nd annual, already has been scheduled for Sept. 23-25.
The event has been popular not just with pilots but with people of all ages who have enjoyed seeing the planes descend over the lake at the end of summer.
In an interview with Lake County News last year, Kimes acknowledged the community's support for the event, billed as the largest seaplane gathering west of the Mississippi.
When Kimes wasn't keeping busy working on the event, he was taking part in humanitarian efforts, including using seaplanes to fly much-needed supplies into Haiti last year following a devastating earthquake.
Kimes and his company provided flight planning, permitting and customs clearance filing services in the effort to get doctors and nurses to Haiti, according to the Web site for the Albatross Haiti Relief Mission, www.haiti.seaplaneops.com/Haiti/Welcome.html .
The site stated the group made three successful missions, flying to Haiti from Florida.
A growing number of tributes to Kimes and his flying companions have been posted on seaplane forums and Web sites in the past few days.
Pilot Jason Baker posted on his Web site that Kimes' death “hits the aviation community hard.”
“A great man with so much passion, always only one email or phone call away – he will be sorely missed,” Baker wrote at http://jasonjamesbaker.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/chuck-kimes-a-heavy-loss .
A Facebook memorial page has been started for Kimes and Orsow at www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_197069060312576 .
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