Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Man killed in crash had restored plane
Aviation was his whole life, his wife says
By James Romoser JOURNAL REPORTER
For Fred Smith, flying was many things: a hobby, a job, a boyhood dream, a lifelong passion.
Smith belonged in the air.
"He loved aviation. That was his whole life," said his wife, Rita.
For decades, he had flown all over the world for US Airways. But the crash that killed him was just a few miles away from his home.
On Saturday evening, Smith, 58, was flying a single-engine AT-6D plane - a vintage military plane he had just finished restoring - when it crashed into woods near the Yadkin-Davie county line.
Rescuers found Smith dead at the crash site, and his passenger, Todd Naylor, seriously injured. Naylor, 41, also of Mocksville, was in critical condition at Wake Forest Baptist University Medical Center after the crash. Naylor is the chief of the Farmington Volunteer Fire Department.
Investigators with the Federal Aviation Administration inspected the wreckage yesterday morning.
According to Dale Trivette, the emergency-management coordinator for Yadkin County, it could be months before they determine what caused the crash.
Smith was known as an impeccable pilot. "That's just what he was. Fred was a great pilot and a great instructor," Rita Smith said. "Ever since he was maybe 3, he always had the intention of being a pilot."
He was a captain for US Airways who flew international flights, and he was one year away from retirement.
In his free time, he flew three small private planes, which he kept in a hangar on his property in Davie County. He used a small private airstrip nearby.
Smith's newest plane was the T-6, a training aircraft known as "the Pilot Maker" that was used during World War II.
Smith, with help from his friends, had taken eight years to assemble the plane by hand. On Saturday, he was having a party to celebrate its completion and take people up in it.
Beyond his passion for flying, friends and relatives said they will remember Smith for his generosity and love of his family.
He had four grown children and five grandchildren. The nicknames he gave to his grandchildren were famous in the family. Jake was "Jakester," Marley was "Motorboat," Mila was "Buster," Isaiah was "Shadow," and Hannah was "Sweet-tater."
The plane he was flying when he died also had a name. He called it "Miss Rita," after his wife.
• James Romoser can be reached at 727-7284 or at firstname.lastname@example.org