FALLEN FLIER - The NASA family came together Friday morning at Edwards Air Force Base to remember one of their finest research pilots, Ed Lewis, who was killed in a Civil Air Patrol aircraft recently near Las Vegas. Kevin Petersen, director, NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, presents the Lewis family - wife Midge and sons Steven and Eric - with a NASA flag during the ceremony.
Photo by RON SIDDLE/Valley Press
This story appeared in the Antelope Valley Press on Saturday, December 1, 2007.
By ALLISON GATLIN
Valley Press Staff Writer
EDWARDS AFB - Several hundred friends, family members and aviation community colleagues came together Friday to remember and celebrate the life of pilot Edwin Lewis.
They gathered in the historic hangar at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, where Lewis was a research pilot for the past decade, in front of several of the aircraft he piloted.
Lewis, 71, was killed Nov. 8 with another pilot, 73-year-old Dion DeCamp, when their Civil Air Patrol plane crashed southwest of Las Vegas.
"Ed was one of those bigger-than-life guys that leave an indelible mark on us," said fellow Dryden research pilot Bill Brockett, who flew with Lewis for 18 years.
"If you knew Ed, you won't be forgetting Ed. That contrail won't dissipate."
In addition to his roles as NASA pilot and Dryden's aviation safety officer, Lewis was director of operations for CAP's Pacific Region, the latest in a long list of leadership positions he had with the organization he joined as a cadet in 1951.
"He was quite a success story in CAP," said Brig. Gen. Amy S. Courter, acting national CAP commander.
"He gave more to CAP than we could ever give to him. That's just the way he was."
Lewis began his flying career as a CAP cadet before joining the U.S. Air Force, where he flew as a forward air controller in Vietnam and then piloted airliners for Pan American. He took early retirement from Pan Am in 1989 to join NASA. He flew for eight years at NASA's Ames Research Center in the San Francisco Bay area and at Dryden since 1997.
He logged nearly 28,000 hours of flight time in a wide variety of aircraft, and was an active member of numerous aviation organizations.
"If it had airplanes, Ed was involved," Brockett said.
Members of Dryden's flight operations branch wore their tan flight suits to the memorial, "in honor of Ed Lewis' passion for aviation," said David Wright, director of flight operations.
Several tucked one pants leg into the top of their black boot in tribute to Lewis' usual sartorial style.
Lewis was remembered for his unbridled passion and skill for flying, as well as his direct manner and quick wit.
Brockett and Lewis piloted many of NASA's science mission aircraft, such as the DC-8 flying laboratory, first at Ames and later at Dryden.
He recalled one mission scientist saying of Lewis that "he possessed the perfect combination of serious professionalism and wise-cracking optimism."
"When Ed rolled down the celestial assembly line, they forgot to put neutral in his transmission," Brockett said, referring to his friend's constant activity. "Ed was about energy and speed - speedy machines, quick wit, even speedy food."
A former colleague from Ames made note of Lewis' signature salutation, "have the day of your choice."
"Ed had the life of his choice. There's not a lot of people can say that," he said.
Gordon Fullerton, another Dryden pilot, flew often with Lewis, primarily in the DC-8.
"He taught me things I never imagined a DC-8 would do," Fullerton said, as he recalled the science missions they flew all over world in it.
A few days ago, the pilots were scheduling flights, juggling assignments to cover the researchers' needs, when they realized they couldn't cover the schedule because "Ed's not here," Fullerton said.
"Ed was a legend in his own time. He will continue to be a legend in the future," Fullerton said. "He will never be replaced or forgotten."
Dryden Center Director Kevin Petersen presented Lewis' family - including his wife of 37 years, Midge, and sons Eric and Steve - with a NASA flag flown over the center in his honor.
He remembered Lewis as "a pilot who could always be counted on, day in and day out, to be extremely prepared and ready to fly."
"Ed was a real champion of Dryden … and a tremendous ambassador for aviation in general," he said.
The memorial was supposed to have been capped with an F-18 flyby, but the gesture was grounded by Friday's rainstorm - a move orchestrated by Lewis, according to long-time friend and former Dryden pilot Rogers Smith. Smith said as he thought about Lewis' reaction to the memorial, he would have said "no fly-bys."
Smith and Lewis shared a love of fine wine, a good meal, and "also the passion for flight and for flight research," Smith said.