Gone West: Richard and Sue Bristow

On Sunday afternoon, May 27, 2018, Richard and Sue Bristow were killed in an accident that occurred shortly after they departed Petaluma Airport in their RV-6A. As a chapter we were shocked and saddened by this sudden tragedy and we join their family and friends in grieving their loss. Here are a few memories expressed by chapter members who worked with Richard and Sue through their years of involvement with our group.

“My best overall memory of both Richard and Sue was their love of life and each other and their passion for their family. They were always talking about their kids and their careers. Heather Lee at Southwest as a flight attendant. The times Sue would spend with their granddaughters who were both here and their frequent visits to LA to visit with Bobbie and Colleen. How proud they were to speak of their jobs at Disney, with his being an Imagineer. Not an easy position to attain. They were both VERY proud parents and grandparents.

But most of all, of the things I’ll recall and hold special, was Richard’s passion for all things Aviation. And this showed in his involvement, drive and leadership with the growth of our EAA Chapter. It was a very large source of pride that he had for his role in helping shape and grow the Chapter through the Tri-Motor Event that was such a success. Not solely based on his efforts but from the total involvement of the Chapter’s members.

Above all, he was my Aviation mentor and friend. His passion fueled mine and it was his friendship and mentoring that brought about my larger involvement in our Chapter.

I flew with him many times and found him to be a good and conscientious pilot. Detailed and disciplined in airmanship and maintenance. It’s those traits that I saw that make the loss even more painful and inexplicable.

Lisa and I will dearly miss them both as they included us not only in their family but also the Lincoln aviation family.”—Tom Lieb

“When the EAA hangar was close to upgrading, Richard approached me and warmly offered a space in his hangar- no charge. My plane was in there for probably six weeks. He was a very giving person, always offering the use of his tools or spare parts. I flew formation with him a number of times and he was an excellent pilot. Additionally, while working on our planes he would talk about his son – the “Imagineer.” He was a very proud father. It was an honor knowing him.” — John Tate

“He was always willing to take me up and fly. He helped me on my Mooney many times; he even flew my newly purchased plane back from Lake Aero after getting a pre-buy. I offered to pay him but he refused; he just said ‘take me out to lunch someday.’ He will be missed.” —Don Heene

A Few Things About Richard….

  • Richard got the flying bug when he was a junior in college. His father, who was a pilot, told Richard to finish college and he would pay for his flying lessons.
  • Richard had his commercial certificate and IFR rating.
  • When Richard was at Oshkosh in 2013, he flew the Ford Tri-motor, and had the vision to bring the Tri-motor it to Lincoln. Richard
    bugged EAA HQ until early 2014 when EAA agreed to bring the Tri-Motor to the West Coast. Under Richard’s leadership, Chapter 1541 set the record for largest number of paid passengers flown at an outing. The Tri-Motor event made our chapter about $6,500 after expenses. Richard then arranged for the estate of a deceased homebuilder to donate a partially completed airplane to our chapter. The Chapter sold the kit for $5,000. This was all in a time when the Chapter had about $1,000 in the treasury.
  • Richard loved his RV-6A and was instrumental in a couple of members purchasing their own RV’s. Every time Richard flew his RV he was like “a kid at Christmas,” grinning from ear to ear.
  • One of Richard’s hobbies was repairing antique clocks.
  • Richard was a two-time cancer survivor.
  • When Richard first purchased a Mooney, he participated in the “Mooney Caravan” mass arrival at Oshkosh. He quickly decided there had to be a better, more organized, safer way to do a mass arrival. He then participated in training with the “Beech Boys,” a local Beechcraft formation flying group. Richard then took that knowledge and helped train many Mooney pilots and organized several Mooney mass arrivals into Oshkosh.

“I had only known Richard for a few months when I joined him in putting on the Tri-Motor event. I had just relocated from the Bay Area. I quickly learned that Richard thought big and had the drive to back up his big thoughts. I had achieved a lot of success in my career as a real estate mortgage broker and Richard had done the same in his real estate career so we had a lot in common and quickly bonded. But, I was reminded often of how difficult it can be to work with a successful, driven person. We had our moments but in the end, our many 7:00 am conversations paid off and Richard achieved what EAA National and many others thought was impossible—setting a new record for paid rides on the Tri-Motor. Richard was the only person that could have achieved this. He was the type of person that didn’t just embrace something that he liked. He grabbed hold of it like a pit bull and twisted, shook, and massaged the idea till he got the results that he wanted. And he always thought big thoughts. And why not? Everything was achievable in Richard’s mind. Richard’s thoughts dwarfed most others.

And Sue was always by Richard’s side, helping when necessary but staying out of his way so she didn’t get run over. Supporting Richard wherever she could. Sue knew when to offer a suggestion and when to get out of the way. Behind every good man is a good woman and Sue was this woman to Richard. They functioned great as a couple.”—Bruce Estes