Saturday, January 28, 2012

CALIFORNIA: Apple Valley bids farewell to pilot

Ron Caraway, a pilot for more than 40 years and a resident of the High Desert since the 1970s, performs a 60-degree turn, pulling two Gs over Apple Valley in a Marquart MA5 biplane.

Ron Caraway spent most of the past 30 years in the skies above Apple Valley, and will be remembered by his friends as a natural pilot who could fly anything with two wings.

Caraway, who died Dec. 27, was an avid aviation enthusiast, test pilot, flight instructor and aerobatic barnstormer who called Apple Valley Airport his second home.

“I knew Ron for about 30 years and he was one of the best pilots that I’ve ever flown with,” said fellow aviator and author Norman Goyer, 85. “Some people have to think when they fly, but Ron was like a bird — he just knew what to do in the air.”

Goyer said Caraway, 74, was one of the few formation pilots he trusted during photo shoots, as Caraway flew near the subject aircraft while the author tried to get the right shot.

“It is so dangerous and I’ve only met three or four people that I’ve trusted. Ron was one of them,” Goyer said. “When you’re hanging out of a Cessna 180 with a camera, you better have the best.”

Born in San Antonio, Texas, Caraway got his first taste of aviation in the 1950s as an Army mechanic in Korea, then went on to earn his private and commercial pilot’s license via the GI Bill when he returned home.

“My dad had a hard time reading, so we bought him the Evelyn Wood Speed Reading program and that helped him get through school,” said Caraway’s son, Darrell, who lives in Northern California. “He’s worked on engines, built planes and knew how to fly — he was special.”

After working in Oregon, the elder Caraway moved his family to California where he worked at Lockheed Martin before moving his family to Apple Valley in 1978.

According to Ans Scott, manager of Midfield Aviation, Ron Caraway was a mainstay at the airport, helping pilots in the air and on the ground.

“Ron was also a highly respected test pilot for new airplanes,” Goyer said. “Ron knew his way around an aircraft and he could fly anything with two wings. He was a superb pilot and everyone knew it.”

Darrell Caraway said his father loved to travel, taking trips to various fly-ins across the country and even helping a pilot to fly across the Atlantic in the mid-80s, leaving New York on their way to Spain.

“He flew aerobatics with non–aerobatic planes. It was fairly safe aerobatic stuff, but there was still a chance that something could go wrong,” Darrell Caraway said. “He told me that he even had a close call when both wings touched. Nothing could keep my dad on the ground.”

A celebration of life is scheduled for noon Sunday at the Apple Valley Airport, 21600 Corwin Road.

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