BEMIDJI -- Larry Diffley was all about reaching for new heights.
Now, the late aviation pioneer from Bemidji will soar into the Hall of Fame.
Diffley is one of six people who will be inducted into the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame in Bloomington on April 25.
“We are extremely proud and excited,” said Jennifer Benjamin, Diffley’s daughter. “We heard from so many of the pilots that he had trained them or that he had an impact on their careers.”
Diffley died at age 74 in 2012 when his plane crashed during an aerial pipeline survey near Chicago.
Diffley and Mark Shough took over Bemidji Aviation in 1970; at the time the company had three planes and three employees. Now, the employee-owned company is the fixed base operator at the Bemidji Regional Airport, with 60 employees and more the 40 planes. The company does everything from providing fuel, maintenance, hangar and plane rental to flight training and more.
Diffley was born in Bemidji, growing up on the family farm in Becida. He was a graduate of Bemidji High School and attended Bemidji State College. He joined the National Guard and at age 21 and later moved to Los Angeles, where he took flight lessons and soloed out of the famed LAX airport, before returning to Bemidji in 1970 to purchase Bemidji Aviation with Shough.
“He was for everything aviation and anything to promote aviation,” Shough, Bemidji Aviation’s president, said of Diffley. “He had a big impact on a lot of employees over the years, many of whom are still in aviation.”
Along with flight instruction, Diffley also flew charters, air ambulance and patrolled pipelines. He often flew aerial surveys for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, as well as fire patrols; in fact, he flew all over the U.S. on firefighting missions, according to his Hall of Fame induction release.
In the wake of Diffley’s death, his children established the Larry Diffley Memorial Aviation Scholarship Fund with the Northwest Minnesota Foundation, which awards scholarships to young people embarking on careers in aviation.
The Diffley family also established the Mimi Diffley Memorial Scholarship Endowment with the Sanford Health Foundation of Northern Minnesota after Diffley’s wife, Mimi, died in 2007 of breast cancer. That fund provides scholarships for Sanford Health employees wanting to further their education and advance their careers. Mimi Diffley worked as a nurse for North Country Health Services for more than 20 years.
Along with Diffley, the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame will induct Robert Gilruth, former NASA director from Nashwauk; Gen. Leo Goodrich of St. Paul, Air National Guard officer and assistant adjutant general; Frank Judd, early Northwest Airlines captain from Minneapolis; Robert Rishovd, helicopter pioneer from Minneapolis and Lt. Col. John Voth, Air Force veteran from St. Cloud. The organization also will give out awards for Aviation Writer of the Year and Aviation Artist of the Year, as well as present various scholarships to youth pursuing careers in the aviation or aerospace industries, a release said.
Original article can be found here: http://www.bemidjipioneer.com
NTSB Identification: CEN13FA089
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, December 04, 2012 in Manhattan, IL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/30/2013
Aircraft: BEECH 58, registration: N4016A
Injuries: 1 Fatal.
NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.
The pilot was conducting pipeline surveillance at the time of the accident. A witness reported that he observed the accident airplane in level flight about 50 feet above a nearby two-story house. Everything appeared normal at that time; however, when he looked up a few moments later, the airplane was “sideways” with the wings oriented vertically. The airplane impacted an open field. The accident site was located about 1/3 mile east-southeast of the pipeline under surveillance. The debris path was about 950 feet long, and the airframe was fragmented during the impact sequence. A postaccident examination did not reveal any anomalies consistent with a preimpact failure or malfunction. Analysis of all available information related to the accident did not reveal a definitive cause for the in-flight loss of control and impact with terrain.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
An in-flight loss of control and impact with terrain for reasons that could not be determined because postaccident examination did not reveal any anomalies that would have precluded normal operation.
HISTORY OF FLIGHT
On December 4, 2012, about 1438 central standard time, a Beech model 58, N4016A, impacted an open field near Manhattan, Illinois. The commercial pilot sustained fatal injuries. The airplane was substantially damaged. The aircraft was registered to and operated by Bemidji Aviation Services under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a pipeline surveillance flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which was not operated on a flight plan. The flight originated from Bemidji Regional Airport (BJI) about 0915. The intended destination was Joliet Regional Airport (JOT), Joliet, Illinois, after completion of the surveillance activity.
A witness reported that he observed the accident airplane in level flight, heading south at a “really low” altitude; estimating its altitude as about 50 feet above a nearby two-story house. Everything appeared normal at that time. He noted that it was not uncommon to see airplanes and helicopters flying low in that area as they conducted pipeline or power line surveillance. He went back to his work; however, when he looked up again a few moments later, the airplane was “sideways” with the wings oriented vertically.
The airplane impacted an open field on a south-southeast bearing. The accident site was located about one-third mile east-southeast of the pipeline under surveillance.
The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with single and multi-engine land airplane, single-engine sea airplane, and instrument airplane ratings. He was issued a second class airman medical certificate on May 23, 2012, with a restriction for corrective lenses.
On the application for his medical certificate, the pilot reported a total flight time of 27,000 hours, with about 40 hours flown within the preceding 6 months. He had reported a flight time of approximately 11,000 hours in Beech model 58 airplanes on a pilot qualification record dated June 10, 2011.
Full Narrative: http://www.ntsb.gov