Friends of well-known pilot Fred Lewis prepared a hangar at the Nut Tree Airport for a tribute to be held Friday at 11 a.m. Lewis was killed when his plane went down with a co-worker just outside Paradise in Butte County on Tuesday.
Lewis was working under a contract with PG&E checking natural gas pipelines to see if there was any digging activity near the lines. The crash started a 15 acre wild land fire that hindered rescue operations.
The 55-year-old retired Air Force veteran headed a foundation trying to create an air an space museum in Vacaville. Supporters of the Jimmy Doolittle Air And Space Museum can’t believe their friend, who logged 6,000 hours in civilian aircraft, was gone. He worked with youth interested in aviation and was a link to the non-aviation community.
“It was his passion and he really believed in inspiring people to do what they loved to do and for Fred it was flying,” said museum backer Denell Burks.
Mike DeCastro flew with Lewis in the Air Force when both were flight engineers. He said Lewis, who once worked for the FAA as a flight examiner, was a careful pilot who had a dynamic personality.
“He was a great icon out here at the airport … he loved people, it’s going to be a heck of a loss,” said DeCastro.
Lewis also flew historic warbirds for the Collins Foundation. He flew a B-25 bomber to the Nut Tree Airport from Florida with Russ Fisher on Saturday. Fisher said he was shocked when he heard about the crash and is left with questions.
“Why did it happen, you have a great pilot you don’t want to think its pilot error, but it could be anything,” said Fisher.
Lewis is survived by a wife and a son who is in the Air Force. The tribute on Friday will be followed by a private memorial on Saturday. The B-25 will participate in a fly-by.