A large crowd of friends, coworkers and family members gathered recently at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center to bid farewell to pilot Edwin W. Lewis Jr., "a delightful and bigger-than-life man" who was remembered as "a contrail that won't dissipate."
Research pilot Ed Lewis in cockpit.
Credit: NASA/Tony Landis Lewis, whose NASA career spanned 18 years at Dryden and Ames research centers, and Civil Air Patrol Nevada wing commander Dion E. DeCamp perished Nov. 8 when the patrol's Cessna 182 they were flying crashed into a mountain peak southwest of Las Vegas. Lewis had served as the patrol's Pacific Region director of operations, among many other posts held in more than five decades of service with the group.
Fellow pilots Bill Brockett, Gordon Fullerton and Rogers Smith, Center Director Kevin Petersen and several Civil Air Patrol representatives were among those who entered "the target-rich environment of Ed Lewis stories" to memorialize their lost colleague.
Lewis was celebrated for his quick wit, direct approach to life and for his "perfect combination of serious professionalism and wise-cracking optimism," Brockett said. A touching video montage made by Dryden videographer Lori Losey featured highlights of Lewis' life and career.
Petersen noted Lewis' legacy of scientific advancement made through the many science flights he helped plan and execute on NASA science platform aircraft.
He remembered Lewis as "a pilot who could always be counted on, day in and day out, to be extremely prepared and ready to fly."
"Ed was a real champion of Dryden and a tremendous ambassador for aviation in general," Petersen said.
But it was Lewis' zest for life that brought the most accolades, with one speaker noting a Lewis trademark: a flight suit patch he wore depicting what the speaker called "a 'fun' meter – pegged all the way to the right."
"When Ed rolled down the celestial assembly line, they forgot to put neutral in his transmission," said Brockett. "Ed was about energy and speed speedy machines, quick wit - even speedy food."
NASA's modified DC-8 now carries the name of the late Edwin W. Lewis below its cockpit window, a tribute to his 18 years piloting the unique science laboratory.
Credit: NASA/Carla Thomas "He taught me things I never imagined a DC-8 would do," Fullerton said in recalling science missions the two had flown in the research platform. "A few days ago, the pilots were scheduling flights, juggling assignments to cover the researchers' needs, when they realized they couldn't cover the schedule because 'Ed's not here.'
"Ed was a legend in his own time. He will continue to be a legend in the future. He will never be replaced or forgotten."
Lewis, 71, had been a Dryden research pilot since 1997. Prior to that, he had been a pilot for eight years at Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
At Dryden, Lewis flew the DC-8, G-III, King Air, YO-3A and T-34C and was a monitor pilot for the G-III, King Air and YO-3A. While at Ames he flew 10 aircraft including the C-130B, C-141A, DC-8-72, UH-1, SH-3, King Air, Lear 24, T-38A, T-39G and YO-3A.
Earlier on the day of the fatal crash, Lewis, co-pilot Brockett and flight engineer Marty Trout had flown the DC-8 from McClellan Airfield, Sacramento, to Dryden's new Aircraft Operations facility at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale.
Lewis and DeCamp were traveling to Rosamond when the accident occurred. The cause of the crash is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.