by Scott Thompson
We all were greatly saddened at the deaths of Richard and Sue Bristow in a plane crash on Sunday, May 27. Both Richard and Sue have been members of our local chapter since its inception back in 2012 and Richard served as our chapter president in 2014 and 2015. Richard was a huge supporter of the mission of EAA; he was an ambassador for aviation. He loved to fly airplanes and talk about airplanes and work on airplanes. He was a good pilot and a gracious friend. He was very generous with his time and talent in helping others get involved in aviation and in supporting the local aviation community. In the short time that I have been president of this chapter he has been very encouraging to me, something that I greatly appreciated.
One of the best examples of his enthusiasm that I can personally cite is when the Ford Tri-motor came to Lincoln. For those who might not know, the Ford Tri-motor is one of the first successful airliners from the early days of aviation. Today the Tri-motor is a rare airplane, but the EAA has one and it tours the country each year visiting airports and selling rides as a way to promote aviation. In 2015 our chapter hosted the airplane. Richard, who was then our president, jumped in with both feet and organized a huge four-day event when the Trimotor came to town. There were a lot of behind the scenes work that had to be done, plus we held a 1920’s-themed dance. We had to arrange for some display vintage cars, various media, publicity, and sponsors. Our chapter worked very hard to put the event on but Richard was the driving force that pushed it along. Early in the planning Richard expressed a desire that the Tri-motor would carry more passengers during its visit to Lincoln than it had carried at any other stop in the twenty-plus years the EAA has been flying the Tri-motor. Mostly due to Richard’s efforts, we carried 827 passengers that weekend, a record that still stands with the EAA. It put our young chapter on the EAA map and it also provided a big boost to our chapter’s finances. Both Richard and Sue were everywhere during those four days the Trimotor was in town, tirelessly working to make the event a success, which it was largely due to their efforts.
Richard’s enthusiasm was infectious and he had a passion for drawing young people into aviation. No matter the situation, Richard would take the time to show anyone, particularly a younger person, his airplane and answer any questions. Our chapter recently held its first Young Eagle Rally in several years. Richard was the first pilot to sign up to fly for the Rally. He flew a number of kids that day and I witnessed firsthand his enthusiasm and dedication to introducing teenagers to aviation in a positive and hands-on way.
Oshkosh is a well-known event for aviators and enthusiasts. It is, by any measure, one of the biggest airshows in the world, but it is more than an airshow. It is a convention for aviators and thousands show up from around the world for a week of flying and fellowship. Most pilots and enthusiasts I know have set a goal to get to Oshkosh at least once in their life because it really has to be seen to be believed. It’s not always easy to get there from the West coast but a lot of pilots fly there in their own planes. I’ve been to Oshkosh three times myself, and I will go again this next month. I was talking to Richard on the ramp at the Nut Tree Airport on the day before his accident and he was telling me how excited he was about his coming trip to Oshkosh next month. He told me he had been there seventeen times and was looking forward to his eighteenth visit with another cross-country flight. That enthusiasm exemplified his love for aviation. I speak for our entire chapter when I say “Blue Skies and Tailwinds” to Richard and Sue. You will both be very much missed.