A former Blackhawk resident is one of two local men killed in a plane crash last week, according to the victim's friend. Pilot Fred Lewis, 54, was surveying gas pipes for PG&E on Aug. 13 when his plane crashed in Hamlin Canyon, about six miles southwest of Paradise, Calif. at 11:30 a.m.
According to the Chico Enterprise Record, Lewis was the co-owner of AA Aerial Surveillance at the Nut Tree, which was contracted to do routine patrol on a natural gas transmission pipeline. Lewis' 1966 Champion, fixed-wing, single-engine two-seater plane reportedly experienced engine failure.
"He went out of his way to help those in need and to educate those who wanted more knowledge," wrote Bob Fish, a friend of Lewis.
Twenty-six-year-old Matthew Moody, a 2005 San Ramon Valley High graduate, was also killed in the crash.
"Fred was a major national asset in the historical aviation area. He flew the old warbirds for the Collings Foundation every year," Fish continued. "He also was helping to get the new Jimmy Doolittle Air & Space Museum off the ground in Vacaville/Fairfield as it morphs from the Travis AFB Heritage Center."
Lewis enlisted in the Air Force in 1977 and served as a maintenance specialist on the F-4,F-15 and F-111 planes and flew as a flight engineer on several others. He held numerous leadership positions during his career, including chief flight engineer, flight safety investigator, chief flight engineer for resupply missions to the South Pole in Operation Deep Freeze and was the chief flight engineer for the Prime Nuclear Airlift mission. Lewis was also the Federal Aviation Administration's designated flight engineer flight examiner for several aircraft.
"(Lewis) was a great friend of the USS Hornet Museum where he and I worked several very cool projects together...and re just getting started on having Congressional Gold Medals awarded to the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders,"Fish added. "In May 2012 when we had three of the five remaining Raiders in attendance and a large flyover, both courtesy of Fred."
Lewis' plane was fully engulfed in flames when officials arrived on scene, said Miranda McAffe, Butte County Sheriff media liaison. The bodies were badly burned and the plane destroyed.
A resulting vegetation fire burned up 21 acres and closed nearby Neal Road, according to reports. Six engines, four water trucks, a bulldozer, four hand crews, two air tankers, a helicopter and a spotter plane fought the blaze. The fire did not threaten nearby homes.
PG&E spokesman Paul Moreno said the crash is under investigation by the Federal Aviation
Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board, he said.
Lewis and his wife, Lynn, recently moved to Vacaville after living in Blackhawk for nearly a year. Lynn also worked as a PG&E contractor in the IT department. The couple had previously lived on the East Coast.
A memorial service for Lewis was held this weekend at the Nut Tree airport in Vacaville. He is survived by Lynn, his children Doug, Mark, Amanda and Karina, and step-children Ashley and Jacob Lentz.