Gary Hubler, Five Time Formula 1 Champion
GARY HUBLER, PILOT
Caldwell champion racing pilot dies in Reno air crash
Gary Hubler had the 3rd fatal crash in 4 days at National Championship Air RacesRENO, Nev. — Gary Hubler, a longtime Caldwell crop-duster and a champion racing pilot, died when his plane collided with another Friday at the Reno National Championship Air Races.
It was the third fatal crash in four days of racing at the Reno air show.
Hubler, 51, died when his Formula One race plane "Mariah" collided with a plane piloted by Jason Somes of Simi Valley, Calif., during an eight-place race.
Somes was able to land his damaged aircraft; he was hospitalized with injuries that did not appear to be life-threatening.
Hubler was one of four Treasure Valley pilots competing in the Reno air races, which were halted for the day. Racing resumes today and Sunday.
Don Waters, an Idaho Statesman circulation department manager, is crew chief for the team of Boise pilot Brian Reberry racing in Reno this week. Waters knew Hubler well and had dinner with him Wednesday evening.
Winds were strong Friday morning, but once the race was under way nothing appeared to be out of the ordinary, Waters said.
‘A split-second thing'
"Gary was up above. The other plane came screaming through," Water said. "They were banking left, and Jason Somes' plane, Alley Cat, came up behind. His right wing clipped Gary's left wing. It was a split-second thing."
Eyewitnesses reported seeing pieces fall from both planes before Hubler's plane dove into the ground, flipped over and landed upside down.
Waters estimated that the planes were traveling at 200 miles an hour, about 50 feet off the ground.
"At 50 feet, if you crash, you're through," he said.
After witnessing the crash, Waters walked to where Hubler's wife and crew were gathered.
"Friends and family were around, trying to get through it," Waters said.
Two judges on the ground were hit by debris and suffered minor injuries. Students on a field trip from seven elementary schools were among those watching when the crash occurred. School officials said counselors were being made available to talk to children.
Top of his class
Hubler was a five-time defending national race champion. Competing in the Forumla One class, Hubler was flying a Cassutt III M single-seat plane, which is designed for pylon racing and aerial acrobatics. Hubler competed in the top class, reserved for the best pilots and the fastest planes.
Hubler started competing in the Reno races in 1984, and in Thursday's first heat reached a top speed of 259 mph, according to the air races' Web site.
The races are like a car race in the sky, following an oval path over the airport runway and around pylon markers at various distances.
Hubler was competitive, said friend and fellow pilot Holbrook Maslen.
"He's won the last five races," Maslen said. "I know this would have been one more."
Maslen had planned to compete in the same race in which Hubler died. But late Thursday he decided his plane wasn't in racing shape and dropped out of the race — the first time he's missed the event in 14 years.
After hearing about the crash, Maslen called his wife and his crew chief.
"You just get on the phone. It's a close group of people. A big concentration of racers are from here. Probably the most professional was Gary. He was an excellent pilot," Maslen said.
"All of us are torn up about it," said Caldwell Industrial Airport Manager Curt Hawkins, his voice cracking with emotion.
Flying, a way of life
Being a professional crop-duster all his adult life gave Hubler the low-flying skills needed for racing. And flying and crop-dusting run in Hubler's family
Hubler's father, William, started the crop-dusting Valley Air Service at Hubler Field near Middleton in 1961.
"My family's done this for about as long as I can remember," Hubler told the Statesman in 1998. "I can't really see myself doing anything else. Crop-dusting is what I do."
Hubler's son, Jon Hubler, died in 1996 at the age of 16 in a small plane crash near Caldwell.
Gary Hubler's brother and best friend also died in flying accidents.
Hubler's is the third fatality of the week at the Reno air show. A bi-plane pilot died in a test flight on Tuesday evening. Thursday, a jet hit another plane's wake turbulence and crashed, killing the pilot.
Friday's crash was the 18th fatality in the 44-year history of the air races, and the first race week since 1993 with more than one fatal crash.
Cynthia Sewell: 377-6428 Anna Webb: 377-6431
Associated Press reporter Scott Sonner in Reno contributed to this report.
Gary won the Silver Race at Reno in '96 at a
faster speed than that of the winner of the Gold Race!
In 2003, Gary and Mariah won the Gold again, setting a course record time of 253.823.
Gary won the Gold in
2004 for the 3 consecutive year.
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