Friends remember Kauai ultralight hang glider pilot

Published On: Mar 12 2014 08:04:14 PM HST   Updated On: Mar 12 2014 10:22:01 PM HST

Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board investigators are combing over the wreckage of a deadly ultralight aircraft crash on the West side of Kauai.

Click here to watch Yunji de Nies' story.

The accident left two people dead, including the pilot Gerry Charlebois.

Charlebois was flying a light sport aircraft that can give those on board a spectacular view. He ran Birds in Paradise, the company operating that flight.

The maker of the Evolution Trikes Revo plane, Larry Mednick, said he was in the islands just a few months ago in December and had personally inspected and flew Charlebois' aircraft.

Mednick says when a pilot and student are on board, as is believed to have been the case Tuesday, the pilot has a 2-to-1 leverage over the student. In other words, the instructor is always in control. But, Mednick is emphatic that the plane was in great shape. That's what made the crash so puzzling by all accounts.

Charlebois was a fantastic aviator with decades of experience.

"Has to be one of the most experienced hang gliding, ultralight flyers in the world," said Ron Wiley, a friend of the pilot.

Wiley says Charlebois loved making the skies accessible to everyone.

"Gerry was the kind of guy who was up for anything, and wanted to help people get there and do whatever it was. He really wanted to bring adventure to people," said Wiley.

Indeed, he took KITV for a ride 10 years ago in a similar aircraft and demonstrated the equipment's durability.

"You could take a knife and stick it in and you would have a really hard time even pulling it through the fabric," Charlebois said back then.

Charlebois' excitement was obvious, as he explained the incredible feeling of flying a light sport aircraft

"The wing is an extension of yourself. Its weight shifts so your body becomes part of it. The wing flexes and you're becoming a part of the centrifugal force of the wing," said Charlebois.

Autopsies on the victims will take place Thursday.

Even with federal investigators on scene, it could still take months for them to release their assessment of why the aircraft crashed depending on the condition of the debris.


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