Tue, May 22, 2012
Aircraft Went Down On Departure Friday
Red Steel Jet Team pilot Douglas Gilliss was fatally injured Friday afternoon when the Aero Vodochody L39 he was flying to Van Nuys, CA went down on takeoff from Boulder City Airport in Nevada. Also fatally injured was a passenger aboard the aircraft, 65-year-old Richard A. Winslow of Palm Desert, CA.
The news was announced on the Red Steel Jet Team Facebook page.
"Last night after arriving in Van Nuys Doug was to jump on a commercial flight to Kansas City where he was scheduled to then join his new aviation family The Red Steel Jet Team at Whiteman AFB. In the past year Doug was one of the driving forces behind the Red Steel Jet Team's progressive success and safety. Doug was also our lead pilot in our inaugural air show season.
"Fellow Red Steel pilot Zach McNeil (pictured) and Doug were close friends for over 25 years and was Zach's mentor. This tragedy has hit the Red Steel Jet Team very hard and we all sat down to really think of what was the right thing to do moving forward. After many tears and thoughts The Red Steel Jet Team would still like to fly this weekend at Whiteman AFB. "It's what Doug loved to do and he would have wanted us to fly this weekend, so that's what we are going to do," Zach McNeil - RSJT Pilot."
The team dedicated the performance at Whiteman AFB to Gilliss.
The facebook post said that Gilliss' aviation resume "is and will remain one of the most respected in the industry." The team website lists his aviation accomplishments as:
- Flying for 30+ years, 5800+ hours, 85% jets.
- USAF pilot; military aircraft flown as PIC: F-5A&B, C-123K, T-38A, T37B, T-28C, T-34A & B; Instructor and check pilot in T-38 for formation, instruments and aerobatics; demonstration pilot for airshows and safety officer.
- FAA ratings as an Airline Transport Pilot, Single and Multiengine, Certified Flight Instructor/Single and Multiengine and Instrument; FAA Advanced Ground Instructor; FAA First Class medical; FCC Restricted Radio Telephone Operator Permit; flown more than 40 types of single and multi-engine aircraft, including Learjets and Gulfstream; current in jet aircraft, in instruments and as instructor.
- Rated and current in Aero Vodochody L-29 (more than 1100 hours) and L-39 (more than 400 hours); given more than 100 flight exams in L-29 and L-39 as FAA Designated Examiner.
- Formation check pilot for Classic Jet Aircraft Association, North American Trainer Association and Red Star Pilots association as FAST formation check pilot
- Flew as flight leader for L-29 four-ship jet demonstration team for eight years; Exhibited jets and flown in more than 100 air shows.
- FAA Safety Counselor; conduct FSDO safety meetings on Jet Warbirds (founded local Jet Warbird group for safety training) for five years and currently, designed and delivered more than 50 safety, regulatory and flying training presentations.
- Developed and taught ground school curriculum for L-29 and L-39, including FAA approved syllabus for training; trained dozens of students, ground and air
- Author of three columns in aviation magazines for past four years and currently; more than 30 published articles in FAA Aviation News, CJAA Jet Journal and RPA Alert magazine, on safety, training, regulation interpretation and formation techniques, including more than 50 published air-to-air photographs.
- More than 20 years, and current, experience as Aviation Law professor, teaching safety, labor reg’s, and related management and aviation courses for Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, Southern Illinois University, and University of Phoenix; taught more than 120 university courses. Expert witness in FAA cases.
- Juris Doctor, Master of Business Administration and Bachelor of Science in Communication degrees. Former AOPA referral counsel for certificate actions.
Stories appearing in the Las Vegas Sun and the Las Vegas Review-Journal indicate that Gilliss had at one time had his pilot certificate suspended for falsely certifying a pilot in an L29. The FAA ruled in that case the Gilliss had flown too low over a populated area in Tehachapi, CA. During that performance, a second L29 fell out of formation and went down, resulting in the fatal injury of pilot David Zweigle. The Los Angeles Times reported that Zweigle had not adequately demonstrated his ability to fly the L29, and that Gilliss had been the flight examiner at the time. The paper said Zweigle had flown as a passenger with Gilliss, who subsequently endorsed his logbook for the L29. Gilliss' airman privileges had since been reinstated.
At Boulder City, witnesses said that the L39 lost power just after takeoff and went down in the desert just west of the airport. Gilliss declared an emergency just before the plane went down.
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