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Local seaplane pilot dies

Two men killed when David Wiley's craft crashes in the Willamette River
by: Jacinda Hansen, 
Rescue crews respond Saturday on the Willamette River in West Linn after Lake Oswego’s David Wiley’s 1941 Taylorcraft seaplane went down, killing Wiley and Scott Alan Forsberg of Gilbert, Ariz. Portions of the orange plane can be seen at the center of the photo.

David Wiley, a 55-year aviation veteran who was internationally renowned, died Saturday when his plane went down in the Willamette River.

Wiley, 80, was flying with 52-year-old Scott Alan Forsberg of Gilbert, Ariz. Wiley's Taylorcraft seaplane apparently lost its left wing and plunged into the Willamette. Forsberg also died.

The 1941 Taylorcraft seaplane, which took off near the 10th Street boat ramp in West Linn, began to turn in what pilots call a confined-space maneuver. According to witnesses, the plane rose 75 feet before losing control.

The National Transpor-tation Safety Board is studying the cause of the accident. Wiley was giving Forsberg, a commercial pilot, a lesson at the time.

In a 2001 interview with the Lake Oswego Review, Wiley said seaplane flying was his passion.

'It's a labor of love,' he said. 'What used to be my avocation is now my vocation.'

During that story, photographer Vern Uyetake went up in Wiley's plane to take photographs.

'I remember the unconventional takeoff where Wiley flew his plane underneath the railroad trestle of the Willamette River, which was his normal takeoff path,' Uyetake said.

'He turned to me with a smile and said, 'I bet you didn't know I was going to do that.' It didn't scare me because I had so much confidence in him as a pilot.

'I thought, 'this man knows what he's doing.''

Bill Granewich of Lake Oswego, a flight instructor who worked with Wiley, said he is certain the accident was not pilot error.

He called Wiley 'an icon to aviation. It's such a loss that it's immeasurable,' he said. 'He had an uncanny ability to talk with you for a few minutes about anything in aviation and figure out all the holes in your knowledge base. He was the ultimate teacher.'

The Seaplane Pilot's Association Pilot of the Year in 1999, Wiley operated Wiley's Seaplanes from his home in the Briarwood neighborhood on Fielding Road. He and his wife, Jody, bought the riverside property in 1952, around the same time Wiley began flying.

Aron Faegre, a neighbor and student of Wiley's, said Wiley was a consummate educator.

'For Dave, it was mostly about teaching,' he said. 'He enjoyed teaching. He loved to challenge people who he was training or examining.'

Faegre said Wiley had more than 20 years of experience taking off and landing in the area where his plane crashed Saturday. If witness accounts are true, that the wing broke off, Faegre said 'there's not a whole lot a pilot can do at that point.'

Ryan Smith, owner of Oregon City's Ryan's Float Flying Sea Plane Rides, said Wiley 'was a real PR guy for seaplanes.' He described that area of the Willamette as 'a great place to fly - very wide, open and long.'

Wiley loved to fly and ski, but his full-time job was working for his father's flooring company J.A. Wiley Co.

Born in Oregon City, Wiley graduated from Lewis and Clark College in 1949. He met his wife at Lewis and Clark and they married in 1952.

In an interview with Faegre in 1999, to honor his winning the Pilot of the Year award, Wiley said he supported his hobbies by training people.

'What I've always done is teach my hobbies,' he said. 'Whatever I was interested in, I'd teach it.'

He mixed business with pleasure in some cases, flying business associates to fishing spots in British Columbia.

He formed Wiley Seaplanes in 1977. He began flying seaplanes full time as an instructor in 1985.

Granewich said Wiley was one of two master flight instructors in Oregon and that he could fly everything from hot air balloons to gliders and helicopters. He was also a certified inspector/mechanic.

'If there's a float plane in this state, Dave probably trained the pilot,' he said. 'Pilots come from all over the world to fly with him.'

Faegre said seaplane flying actually combines boating and flying skills.

'Dave was also a boater,' Faegre said. 'He took pride in helping people who were already pilots of land planes make that transition to seaplanes.

'What we're going to teach them here is to cope with a different environment,' Wiley said in his interview with Faegre, referring to taking off and landing on water. 'If you don't have standard conditions, you can't have standard procedures.'

Wiley never actually stopped working.

'He retired on Saturday at noon,' his son Greg said, referring to the time his plane went down.

In addition to his wife Jody and his son Greg, Wiley is also survived by his other two sons, Jeff and Tim, his daughter Valerie MacIntosh Cooper, his sister Carolyn Brazney and eight grandchildren.

'The family wishes to extend the sincerest appreciation and deep gratitude for the enormous outpouring of love and support,' said Greg Wiley.

A Dave Wiley Memorial Scholarship Fund has been set up at U.S. Bank.

The family will have a private memorial gathering and later have a public memorial gathering. That date will be announced on www.wileyseaplanes.com.

Greg Wiley said the family hopes to keep 'the seaplane base (on Fielding Road) as part of his legacy.'

'He would like to see that carry on,' said Wiley.