Bob Swortzel Flew West
Sad news. Recently, Bob Swortzel was killed in an airplane crash. If you attended the 2021 AFC you probably remember him flying his Van's RV. (video below) Blue sky's Bob. You will be missed.
From the Facebook announcement: My name is Curtis Goldin, and I am April’s Boyfriend. I have been helping the family during this time and they asked if I could put something together as a formal announcement of sorts.
I never had the pleasure of meeting many of Bob’s friends, and if you are yet to hear the news then I am terribly sorry to meet you in this manner and deliver such heartbreaking news in the process, but Bob passed away in a fatal airplane accident on the 20th of November, 2021.
There are about a million questions surrounding this situation, so I would like to take a moment to paint as complete of a picture as possible for everyone, while remaining respectful to Bob and those who survive him.
As always, Baloo was doing awesome airplane stuff. After an afternoon of dogfighting, he refueled at Camarillo Airport (KCMA), and departed on a commuting flight to Deer Valley (KDVT) in “the fast plane”, his Glasair III.
Bob, Bob’s very close friend Scott, his son Caleb, and myself, were scheduled to play in the 30th Annual Burndog Invitational on Sunday. We attempted to reach Bob on Saturday evening to no avail, but wrote it off to him flying or otherwise being busy getting home.
However, on Sunday morning when we still could not get a hold of him, some alarm bells began going off. We checked the FlightAware data and saw an abrupt end to his flight in the mountains south of Big Bear in San Bernardino County, CA.
At this time, I enlisted a small army of support, which resulted in my direct contact with a search and rescue pilot from San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, who immediately spun up his bird and flew to Bob’s last ping from the ADSB data. Once on station, he visually confirmed the location of the Six Shooter Racing Glasair III, via its distinct paint scheme and the numbers 26 prominently displayed on the tail section of the aircraft.
An on-foot search and rescue team were then dispatched on a grueling eight-hour hike to Bob’s last known location that included breaking trail through the recently burned forest of the San Gorgonio Mountain range west of San Bernardino peak. Once the team arrived, our worst fears were confirmed via phone call from the Search and Rescue Team Lead.
The circumstances surrounding the incident, (what is known as a Controlled Flight into Terrain, or a CFiT), are still under investigation by the NTSB, but the presiding theory is pilot incapacitation, due to a medical emergency, or possibly inhalation of carbon monoxide. These theories are reinforced by the consistency of data displaying no change in heading, altitude, or airspeed in the minutes leading up to impact.
After all of that, you are now as well informed as we are, and I hope this provides at least a small amount of comfort or closure, knowing some of the details surrounding this awful tragedy.
Bob was the living embodiment of a favorite quote of mine by Leonardo Da Vinci, “when you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the Earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”
A memorial is planned for 3:30pm, the 14th of January 2022, at CCV in Peoria off of Happy Valley Road and 67th Avenue.
We encourage everyone to come by and throw a nickel on the grass for a parent, a son, a friend, a mentor, an instructor, a leader, a motivator, a comedian, and one of the baddest aviators to tame the Fighting Falcon – Robert “Baloo” Swortzel.