We now know the name of the passenger killed in the crash of a vintage Soviet training jet near Lancaster Texas.
He is 30-year-old Lee Fisher Floyd of Dallas who won a chance to fly on the L-29 Delfin trainer flown by 77-year-old Noell Rather.
Rather used to house the plane here in Tyler, and was a life member of the Historic Aviation Memorial Museum
This smoking ruin is all that was left of the L-29 Delfin jet trainer flown by Noell Rather Thursday.
He and Lee Fisher Floyd were taking a sightseeing ride that Floyd had won in a charity auction, when something happened and the resulting crash killed both men instantly.
David Verver manages the Historic Aviation Memorial Museum at Tyler Pounds Field, and remembered Rather today.
“He was a good gentleman, he was well liked,” Verver said. “I just have total respect for that man. I’m sorry it ended this way.”
Rather stored his plane for year in this hanger that contains three Russian Mig 17 fighters one of which is owned by Randy Ball, who runs Fighterjets Inc. in Dallas.
“Noell has been flying for years and went to air shows with us for years,” Ball said. “And he loved to sit and talk to kids about it. He would talk to them for hours when they came to the museum. He would talk about the airplane, compare it to US airplanes. And he was very animated when he would talk about that stuff. That’s why this is such a bizarre accident. I’m not sure I want to speculate too much on the cause but the effects are certainly obvious from the photos.”
The Delfin was first produced in 1963 as a primary jet trainer for the eastern block during the cold war. The last one was built in 1974.
It was roughly equivalent to the US T-37 and T-33 trainers. It was later replaced by the L-39 Albatross, which we had a chance to fly just a few months ago. The Delfin had an excellent safety record.
Rather flew F-105 Thunderchiefs in Viet Nam on bombing missions to Hanoi and later flew for Braniff Airways. An experienced pilot, he was not prone to risk taking, so colleagues assume there was a mechanical or possibly health problem.
The ejection seats on the Delfin were not operational, though both men wore parachutes.