Blue skies…

My neighbor is in pain today. He lost a close friend over the weekend. A pilot lost his life Saturday in a crash at an airshow in Cameron, MO.

Steve O’Berg was an accomplished pilot. He held an Air Transport Pilot certificate, was a retired Army helo and fixed wing pilot with over 7,000 hours in the air. “Included in those 7,000 hours were 4,000 hours of military flight time and 400 combat hours in Iraq.”

My neighbor was present when the crash occurred. There is no known cause, at this time, for the crash. The accident was reported by the Aero News Network.

Airshow Pilot, Steve O’Berg, Lost in Airshow Accident

Media Handling Of The Story Leaves Much To Be Desired (Surprise!)

Sun, Jun 28, 2015

ANN regrets to report that airshow pilot Steve O’Berg has reportedly perished in an accident while conducting an airshow routine at the Cameron Airshow, Saturday afternoon, in Cameron, MO.

The Red and White Pitts S2-B apparently failed to complete a descending maneuver sequence and impacted the ground, amid trees, under circumstances yet to be properly documented. Despite what was reported to be a fairly swift med-evac from the site, O’Berg perished from his injuries.

O’Berg had an impressive background. His bio notes that, “His military career in the Army spanned 23 years until his retirement in 2007. While in the Army he flew OH-58’s, UH-1’s, UH-60 BlackHawks, C-12 King Air 200, and the C-23 Shorts-330. He retired with over 4,000 hours of military flight time including over 400 combat hours flying in Iraq.

Steve’s extensive civilian flying background includes over 7,000 hours flying everything from J-3 Cubs for fun, Boeing helicopters in Alaska Heli-Logging, Commuter Airline pilot for peanuts and a lot of things in between. His FAA Licenses include Airline Transport Pilot, Multi-Engine, and Rotary Wing Instrument flight instructor certificates.”

The airshow was shut down following the accident, but a night performance was later allowed to proceed. The Cameron Airshow organization published the following statement on their Facebook page, “At approximately 1:50 this afternoon there was an accident during a routine aerial performance. On behalf of the Cameron Airshow, we’d like to emphasis our thoughts and prayers are with the family and the pilot that was involved in the accident.”

The Kansas City news community sent their 6th Jr. Varsity reporting string to cover the crash. As expected, they butchered the story. You would expect reporters who claim to have some professionalism to do a least a smidgen of research before writing their story. But this is the 21st Century and sensationalism is first, research and accuracy as far, far lower place in their reporting. Their professionalism was non-existant. The text below is a prime example.

Aero-News Commentary/Analysis: Unfortunately, local media coverage was not only errant… but embarrassing. As an example (and certainly not the only story with errors), a report published online by and bylined by, ‘Nick Sloan, Shain Bergan, Gary Brauer/KSHB-TV.’The story asserted that O’Berg’s aircraft was doing ‘stunts.’

The article went to say little of consequence, but did describe O’Berg’s professional, FAA/ICAS/ACE approved/monitored airshow routine and performance, as ‘doing dives and flips in front of the crowds’ and adding a statement that the aircraft, ‘attempted to do a corkscrew maneuver near the runway.’ — ANN.

Aero News Network then proceeded to explain that planned, practiced aerobatic routines are not “stunts.”

Folks… as I noted in comments attached to the poorly detailed and conducted story referenced above, the Pitts was not doing ‘stunts’ — the aircraft and its pilot were doing carefully planned, rehearsed, and approved precision aerobatic maneuvers. The pilot was a professional who received extensive scrutiny from his peers, ICAS (via its ACE program) and the FAA. The airplane did not do ‘dives and flips’ — it did a series of planned precision aerobatic maneuvers according to an approved airshow sequence that was practiced again and again before being performed at an actual airshow. This was a good pilot, a professional/qualified airshow pilot, that had a tragic accident, and deserved the respect of a journalist — at least someone doing more than 30 seconds worth of research, in accurately relating the tale of a horrible tragedy. If a so-called journalist is not up to checking the facts and respectfully detailing what’s known at this time, then he or she should please pass the story off to someone who will ask the right questions, learn the proper details, and (ultimately) respect the passing of a man who tried to share his love for aviation with the public. — ANN.

Whenever you see an aerobatic pilot exhibiting his skill, understand that every move is carefully choreographed, carefully planned, and extensively practiced. It is a exhibition of a lifetime of accumulated skill.

Blue skies, Steve O’Berg. I didn’t know you but I’ve known many like you. Farewell.


A few decades ago, I spent a lot of time driving…windshield time it’s called. I like driving. When my wife and I take a trip, my eyes are constantly moving. I see stuff my wife misses, and my daughter, too, when she was younger. Mostly, I saw animals—deer, turkeys, armadillos (yes, there are armadillos in Missouri,) porcupines, coyotes, a long list. One of the things I especially looked for was road-side airports and airplanes.

I used to fly. I stopped when my daughter’s college tuition, some other items, needed the cash more. But, I love flying and still, from time to time, visit local airports and watch the weekend pilots practice touch ‘n goes.

I like airplanes. I think I’ve said that a few times. One reason why the new Disney animated movie, Planes, drew me, was the planes. The hero in this movie is Dusty Cropduster—an animated, Piper Pawnee crop-duster.


Dusty Cropduster, a Piper Pawnee, at the end of a long crop dusting day.

I was once returning from an all-day trip to and from Omaha, NE. I had left KC early that morning, arrived in Omaha well before noon, visited some customer sites, fixed their equipment and was on my way home, southbound on I-29.

Just south of the Iowa/Missouri border, a crop duster was spraying a corn field along side of the interstate. I pulled over, got out and leaded against my car watching him work the field.

He would make a long run down the field at about 30′ above the corn. At the northern end of the field was a line of trees. He’d pull up, pop over the trees and disappear. Out of sight, he’d pull a 180° turn, pop up over the trees and proceed down to the southern end of the field.

I had seen this particular crop-duster before. He had a small grass strip a few miles up the road along the east side of I-29. I drove away before I drew the attention of the local Deputies or State Troopers. A few minutes later, I neared that crop duster’s field. He had finished and in the light of the setting sun, was lining up for a landing…returning home.  The scene from Planes above, reminded me of that moment.

When I visit airports and watch the planes land, I can still feel the controls, my feet on the rudders aligning the plane to that thin strip in the windshield. Flaps lowered, throttle back, the hiss of passing air waiting for the flare and, moments later, the Skeep-Skeep of touch down.

I miss it.

By-the-way for you who may see the movie. A hint that it’s not real. There’s no way on God’s earth a Piper Pawnee can reach 317 knots as shown in one scene. Overpowered, the Pawnee may be, but in the end, it’s still a brick with wings.