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Sad news - MtnVwPilot

Aug. 16th, 2006 03:56 pm Sad news

I just learned that Silicon Valley net.aviation fixture Geoff Peck died in a plane crash last week on his way back from Oshkosh. I hadn't talked to Geoff in a couple of years, but I have several fond memories of him.

A few years ago, when he was launching a startup to provide aviation weather services, he invited me join a few other of his friends to staff his booth at the annual Airline Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) convention in Long Beach. I was honored to be invited to represent him and his nascent company, and had a great time hanging out with him and several other pilot friends of his who'd also come down to help staff the booth.

Several years before that, back when I was a pretty new pilot and still fairly active on the rec.aviation USENET newsgroup, Geoff arranged a big weekend fly-in for a couple of dozen folks to Minden, NV, where we all took sailplane flights. I brought a non-pilot friend, who still talks about his first-ever sailplane flight that weekend as one of his fondest memories. Most of us stayed at Geoff's cabin in nearby Truckee, CA, at the top end of Lake Tahoe.

A few years later, Geoff organized the rec.aviation Bay Approach "fly-out" from Oakland to Watsonville and back. Bay Approach was, at the time, the Air Traffic Control facility that covered the entire Bay Area, and their building (think dark rooms full of glowing radar scopes, many of them as old as the controllers) was adjacent to Oakland Airport. In the name of building pilot/controller rapport, we pilots were supposed to fly in to Oakland, pick up controllers as passengers, and then fly them down to Watsonville for lunch (and back to Oakland afterwards, of course). Well, the weather that day was a bit overcast, and the controllers all bailed on us, but about 40 Bay Area pilots showed up, and we had a great time anyway.

Something very amusing happened at that Bay Approach fly-out... At the time, Star Trek: The Next Generation was still in production. Michael Dorn, who played Lt. Worf (the Klingon), is a pilot, and it was his routine to fly himself home to Oakland every Saturday morning to spend the weekend with his family, then fly himself back down to Hollywood on Monday morning for the next week's filming. Well, our flyin was on a Saturday morning, and just happened to coincide with his arrival on his regular weekend trip. When he finished unloading his baggage from his plane, and came into the little general aviation terminal to arrange for fuel for his plane, there were 40 rec.aviation geeks standing around there chatting, waiting for the controllers to show up. Now, rec.aviation geeks bear a striking resemblence to sci-fi fans, and he looked like a deer caught in the headlights as the automatic door slid open and he walked in; he literally froze just inside the door, and scanned the crowd. And then an amazing thing happened... Nobody paid him any attention at all! Nobody recognized him without all the costume makeup that he wore on the show (I only knew who he was because I'd happened to be at the same place the week before for some other event, and one of the staff had pointed out his plane and said "you know who that belongs to?", so when I saw a tall black former athlete unloading his luggage from the same plane the following week, I realized who it was). So anyway, he slowly realized that the sci-fi-looking crowd isn't there to mob him, and in fact didn't seem to have noticed him at all... He worked his way around the edge of the crowd to the desk, chatted with the staff for a few minutes, then took off, all the while keeping a wary eye on the crowd. And I just grinned, knowing that I knew something that my fellow rec.aviators would want to know but didn't... When I told them later, over lunch in Watsonville, somebody shouted down the table "Why didn't you SAY something?!?", to which I responded "hey, the guy was home for a weekend with his family, and didn't expect a fan mob; let him have a peaceful weekend." Geoff just grinned, too; I think he might have recognized Dorn as well, and done the same thing I did...

Clear skies and tailwinds, Geoff. You're already missed.

3 comments - Leave a commentPrevious Entry Share Next Entry


Date:August 17th, 2006 04:05 pm (UTC)
Sorry about the loss of your friend...you obviously have fond memories...
Date:August 17th, 2006 09:32 pm (UTC)
Oh no, that's terrible news. Thanks for posting the news story and remembrance.
Date:August 23rd, 2006 02:03 pm (UTC)
I heard about this the day after it happened. I took the rest of the day off, and sat around, reminiscing about all the good times.

I was along on that Bay Approach fly-out, flying with Geoff and one other bay area friend. I remember milling about in the lobby of the GA terminal, then departing for Watsonville, on a route via the Golden Gate Bridge, then listening, and watching as a United 747 was restricted underneath us on it's way Westbound departing for Tokyo. I have that video somewhere, it's quite spectacular. That was also my first ride in a small plane full IFR - as we neared Watsonville, we entered a small cumulus and I learned that the inside of the nice white puffy things was seriously bumpy!

I manned Geoff's Enflight booth with him and a few good friends at Oshkosh in the summer of 2000, after spending a few years working with him on the DUATS and Enflight software.

In September 1990, when I moved to Sunnyvale from Oregon, I contacted Geoff for recommendations for a flight instructor since I had finished about half of my private license training. Surprisingly, he took me on himself, and after a year or so of budgeting, evenings, and weekends, I passed my checkride. I also took my mountain flying checkout with Geoff; bouncing around numerous high-Sierra airports in a C172 from Squadron 2.

Geoff also talked me down the night I arrived in Hillsboro, Oregon, sans engine. Long story, but it all ended safely with no bent metal.

Lots more stories, I'll write them all up soon when the Wiki opens up.

Visit http://geoffpeck.com for updates about a Bay area memorial service and news about the accident, what little is known so far.