In Memory of
Bruce & Kathy Rhymes
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By Wheels Wheeler, SNU 2013 President
Shortly after noon on Saturday we were greeted by a low level fly-by of a Cessna 170 belonging to Bruce and Kathy Rhymes. I had met them at the Ft Sage rally when they brought their 19 foot Bambi. I immediately liked them both and especially bonded with Bruce because he was a fellow flyer. Not only did he fly and own a power plane but he flew hang-gliders and soared in hard wing gliders also. I was looking forward to more rallies with Bruce and Kathy to hear about their experiences and plans both with their Airstream and the airplane. Tragically, that will never be. Late on Saturday as they were flying from a glider port in Middletown California to Auburn their aircraft crashed just short of the intended destination.
In my twenty years of flying with the Air Force I have lost several friends both to combat causes and accidents. It didn’t soften the loss, but we were warned that it was the nature of military flying that accidents happen and that environment we flew in was hostile and not always survivable. My over twenty years in the Civil Air Patrol has also shown me that highly experienced pilots sometimes make small mistakes that result in almost instantaneous disaster. Pilots like all other humans make slight errors. They plan their flying so that these small mistakes can be resolved without catastrophe, they plan safety margins. Sometimes these margins are reduced by factors they are unaware of such as weather that can’t be seen at night or winds at the destination. There are also illusions that are interpreted as real such as a false horizon because of car lights along a road at night. The factors that can upset a plan are endless and coping with them are the reason for continuous training. My experience in dealing with flight disasters has taught me that discovering how the accident occurred may be instrumental in making changes in the aircraft systems or the way flights were planned or conducted. The “how” of a small aircraft accident is often difficult to determine. They don’t have a black box recording flight control positions and flight conditions. The National Transportation Safety Board tries to make some determination from the limited amount of information they have available, which is generally just the wreckage. They often end up with “unknown causes.” That is often the case when the conditions surrounding the flight don’t indicate anything unusual such as weather. The “why” of an accident is usually the most puzzling. Particularly if there are no factors that contribute to how the accident occurred. For myself I find that it does little to good to agonize over why the accident occurred. I accept that God has allowed a failure of an aircraft system or a thought process to occur that resulted in loss of life. His reasons are often beyond human understanding but I accept them.
Please remember Bruce and Kathy Rhymes.
By Diane Leipper
Saturday May 18th SNU friends Bruce and Kathy Rhymes died when their vintage Cessna crashed near Auburn CA. They had flown over the SNU rally at Eagle Lake earlier in the day and dipped their wings at us before heading to Middletown CA. This is an excerpt of an email Bruce sent on Tuesday May 14th to let us know that he and Kathy wouldn't be at the rally.
“I've become part of a fly-out to Crazy Creek Soaring Gliderport, in Middletown, CA this coming weekend. We'll be leaving early Sat. morning, heading towards Mt. St. Helena but will fly over you folks for photos of your camp. We won't return until Sunday eve., but will fly over again if the weather allows! Wish we could be two places at once!”
A friend of Bruce's flew over our rally at Ft Sage May 2011 and told Bruce about it. Bruce & Kathy drove to the rally site and had a great visit with Randy & Vicki. Bruce flew out to visit us at Sweetwater in 2011. He and Kathy flew over our Pyramid Lake rally in 2012. They attended their first SNU rally in April 2013 at Ft Sage. We had such a great time talking with them and getting to know them. They had bought their first Airstream just about a year ago and were still getting acquainted with it. Kathy had just retired from teaching at Lassen College. She and Bruce were looking forward to doing a lot of traveling in their Airstream and attending more SNU rallies. They also had plans to do a lot of work on their house that had been put on the back burner for years. Kathy was the motivation behind their purchase of the Cessna. It was Bruce and Kathy's pride and joy. The Cessna was in pristine condition and all original. The plane had won several awards and was showcased at the Reno Air Races. It was featured on the cover of a 2012 edition of the International Cessna 170 Association publication. Kathy and Bruce attended a retirement party for Kathy on Thursday May 16. They were looking forward to a great weekend. Bruce and Kathy touched a lot of people's lives and they will be greatly missed by everyone who knew them.
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