A love story

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

It is the ultimate love story. Soldier meets girl in a foreign land, they marry and live happily ever after.

Well almost. The soldier was actually a fighter pilot, flying an F-16. the hotrod single engine jet they call the "Viper."

Ascribing to the typical fighter pilot creed of life in the fast lane -- fly, love, tomorrow we may die and may the devil take the hindmost -- Scot was stationed in Japan and living the life of a fun-loving bachelor.

Enter Linda, dedicated to bettering the lives of mankind by serving as a Christian missionary in faraway Japan. The last thing that she needed was to meet a loose-living fighter pilot who probably had no interest in settling down to raise a family in moral Christian home.

Then somehow the stars aligned, love won out and according to God's plan they married.

Scot fulfilled his military obligation and came back to his home on the family farm. They built a beautiful ranch home overlooking the Frenchman creek above the Enders reservoir south of Imperial, Nebraska.

Five children, three natural and an adopted younger son from African American parentage and a daughter of Asian heritage. The children are home schooled.

Their eldest son, Shane, graduated from high school and has completed his first year of study at the Air Force Academy. He is following in his father's footsteps as Scot, too, graduated from the academy.

Shane, like his grandfather, father and uncle before, learned to fly.

Truth be known, Scot taught his son, as well, so I, as the certified instructor simply rode along and tweaked his skills to pass his private pilot checkride ... Fulfilling a dream in aviation.

It doesn't get any better than that! Any reader of this column has to have noticed that the author has lived a fulfilling life, never far from his love of aviation. In retrospect, relations in the aviation community are more superficial than one finds in colleagues at work or church and especially family.

We know and respect each other as pilots. We are more interested in what kind of airplane the other guy flies than we are of how many children or even if he/she is married. I'm a thinking that the people that get together to ride and enjoy their motorcycles are of the same bent. In my role as a flight instructor I am confined to a noisy cockpit with another human being for an accumulative 20 hours or more. The old adage "Flying is hours of boredom punctuated by moments of start terror."

Usually the instructor is responsible for initiating those moments of terror and some of the hours of boredom are given over to discussions of family and friends.

Flying with Shane is how I came to know his parents, Scot and Linda. During that time, Grannie Annie and I were guests in their home and visited with Scot about his flying career. It was obvious that Scot was wonderfully proud that Shane was following in his, and my, footsteps pursuing his dream to become an Air Force pilot.

One can't be in the Imperial community very long before becoming aware that there is great respect for the German (that is pronounced gurrrman, not with the more familiar gee sound on the front) family.

The family patriarch, Cal, ran a school for missionary pilots out of Grant, Nebraska, in the not-too-distant past.

Shane's uncle, Eric, was a missionary pilot in South America for years. Scot went off to fly F-16s for the Air Force, but all came back to help run the large German Land & Cattle enterprise.

The family has a cherished reputation for being strong Christians living the honorable life and providing great support for their community.

Good people, the kind we all want for neighbors.

It was then with sickening heart that I received a phone call early Saturday morning from another of my flying students who had just landed at Imperial.

I could hear the tears in his voice as Dave reported that Scot had crashed his

Citabria airplane a few minutes before. The airplane burned and Scot was still in it there in the pasture south of the city.

Over the next several hours I received no less that six other phone and text messages from other students and past students relaying the same message.

Aviation enthusiasts grieve together when one or another of us suffers misfortune.

What happened? We'll probably know in six months to a year (The wheels of bureaucracy turn slowly) when the National Air Traffic Safety Board releases findings of their accident investigation.

I am betting that the official finding will be "pilot error" which seems to be the catchall when the investigators really don't know what happened.

I do know that Scot was well-trained in how to fly an airplane. His father taught him to fly in the general aviation world. The Air Force trained him to fly the demanding, exquisite, F-16 and he did that well.

For Scot and Eric, the airplane was a ranch tool to herd cattle and Scot had years of experience doing just that, moving the herd from pasture to pasture.

Did he push the limit and ask more of the airplane than it could perform? Possibly.

Did he have a heart attack or stroke and was disabled before he hit the ground?


The official investigation will find the answer. Until that time we just know that a wonderful Christian man has gone to a better place and we who are left to mourn can only celebrate a wonderful life well lived.

His obituary appears in yesterday's Gazette.

Prayers and support to Scot's family.

That is the way I saw it.

Dick Trail

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  • God speed.

    -- Posted by Bieker on Mon, Aug 20, 2012, at 11:39 PM
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