Bob Chamberlain of Morrison died doing what he loved to do — flying airplanes.
The 62-year-old pilot, and president of the Inter-Canyon Fire District board of directors, was in a restored military-style training aircraft with two other planes doing a test run for a July 4 fly-over in Tehachapi, Calif. The plane left the formation and crashed in a nearby field about 12:30 p.m.
Chamberlain and David Zweigle, who also was in the plane, died instantly, according to Dan Hatlestad, spokesman for the Inter-Canyon Fire District.
It is unclear which pilot was flying the plane when it crashed, Hatlestad said. Zweigle was manager of the Tehachapi Municipal Airport, which is outside of Bakersfield. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the crash.
A memorial service will be held in a couple of weeks, Hatlestad said. The family will be going on a planned vacation, during which family members intend to spend some time together remembering Chamberlain.
Chamberlain is survived by his wife, Huntley, who has been a firefighter and EMT with Inter-Canyon for 15 years; three daughters; and numerous grandchildren. Family members have asked that the news media not contact them.
Chamberlain had been a pilot and trainer in the U.S. Air Force and with United Airlines before retiring in 2006.
July 4 was an important date for Chamberlain, Hatlestad said. He met Huntley on the Fourth of July 43 years ago. Also on the Fourth of July 1987, he received an Air Force air speed award for flight in a B-1B bomber.
“Bob had participated in many different types of air shows throughout the United States,” Hatlestad said. “He was qualified as an instructor in many different aircraft.”
Chamberlain will be sorely missed on the Inter-Canyon board, said Ted Fandel, board secretary.
“He was a hard worker for the department, and he was a real great leader,” Fandel said.
During Chamberlain’s 10-year tenure on the board, he helped create a strategic plan to make sure equipment and fire stations were upgraded in a timely manner. He also helped get a mill levy passed during that time, Hatlestad said.
“I think that the biggest impact is in the way he represented citizens,” Hatlestad said. “Bob was an excellent custodian of the citizens’ finances. Bob had never been an active firefighter, but his experience in the Air Force and at United as a manager provided an excellent background for being a board member.”
“He was an all-around great guy,” Fandel said. “He was a great friend. If you asked Bob for a favor, he never turned you down. He was an all-around generous person.”
The Inter-Canyon board will meet Thursday to plan a course of action for filling Chamberlain’s seat, Fandel said. According to the board’s bylaws, the board will appoint a new member, and that person may run for election in May 2010. The board also will be appointing a new president. The meeting is at 7 p.m. at Fire Station 1.