John Taylor: I'm sad to report that Ed Strauchen who, along with his Heber Valley Aero Museum, was featured in a story I wrote for a previous issue of Jim Slade's Air Lines, died in a tragic plane crash just west of Heber, Utah, January 16th. He was 62.
Bob Koch, 60, another recently retired airline captain, also perished in the accident.
Photo right: Ed Strauchen with his prized Stearman at Heber Valley Aero Museum last fall.
Witnesses reported that Strauchen's bright yellow, Russian-built Yak trainer departed level flight and pitched abruptly straight down into a pasture. He and Koch were returning to the Heber Valley Airport after a session of aerobatics.
A memorial was conducted for the two pilots at Ed's Hangar One at Heber Valley on January 19th. Hundreds of people packed the large hangar and surrounding ramp. It was an emotional moment, but rather than being a traditional memorial service it was more a celebration of Ed's and Bob's decades in aviation and their enjoyment of flying.
Ed would have loved it. There were airline captains in uniform, flight attendants, bikers in leathers, Austin Healy club members in dapper snap-brim caps and lots of folks in leather flight jackets. These were friends who had come from all over the world on a moment's notice.
A high point of the celebration was a missing man flyover performed brilliantly by Russ MacDonald in his P-51 Mustang, Lynn Oswald in his T-28 Trojan, Nadim AbuHaidar in his Edge 540 and a pilot I didn't know in an Extra 350.
As the formation approached the field, Nadim pulled straight up out of the formation and spiraled his Edge aerobatics aircraft high into the blue sky until it literally disappeared from sight. That left the formation with one plane missing as it thundered over the crowd. A gap signifying the missing man. This is aviation's highest salute to a fallen comrade. There wasn't a dry eye for miles.
From conversations I overheard during and after the memorial, it was clear that Ed Strauchen's friends are determined that his legacy, the Heber Valley Aero Museum, will go forward. His board of directors was meeting right then to begin planning the museum's future.
Ed was survived by his wife Myra and daughter Bradley, who were full partners in the development of the museum. Myra passed the word that rather than flowers she would very much appreciate any donations that people would care to make to the Heber Valley Aero Museum.
Photo: Myra and Ed Strauchen.
Tax deductible contributions can be made out to the museum and sent in care of acting director Steve Guenard at 1655 Creek Side Lane, Park City UT 84098. Steve reports that a new PO box is being created for the museum.
Ed Strauchen, former Navy F-4 pilot, American Airlines 767 Captain, rebuilder of an Oshkosh champion 1942 Stearman, and the smoothest aerobatics pilot I've ever been privileged to fly with, wanted to share his love of aviation with kids of all ages. That's what the Heber Valley Aero Museum was all about. That's what it IS all about. It's a place for everyone who loves airplanes and the freedom and spirit of adventure they represent.
John B. Taylor
Editor's note: If you'd like to read last fall's article about Ed Strauchen and his museum, click on "Index of Previous Features." John's piece is titled: "Letters From the West": The Heber Valley Aero Museum.
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