Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sad News About Vicki Cruse

Sad news arrived today from Great Britain. Vicki Cruse, whom I had met out in the Black Rock Desert last month when I was there chronicling the efforts of Ed Shadle and his North American Eagle land speed record challenge, died while practicing for an air show to be held at the Silverstone race track.

I learned of her death when I received a phone call from Ray Meese, photo editor of the Ventura County Star newspaper. Ray had found several of my photos of Vicki from Black Rock and wanted permission to publish them in her hometown newspaper. The article went live online later that afternoon. The article also appeared in the print edition the next day. (Click here to view the article on the newspaper's website.)

Vicki had flown into the NAE base camp in the desert outside of Gerlach, Nevada on Tuesday, July 7, and stayed with the team until Thursday. She spent time during the week familiarizing herself with the North American Eagle vehicle, in anticipation of her driving the vehicle to set a new woman's land speed record.

Throughout the week, she also pitched in at every turn, even spending several hours helping to prepare lunch for the NAE team members and other visitors.

Her Edge 540 stunt plane was a beautiful thing to behold and before she left the desert, she put on a show for us. Vicki was meticulous in maintaining her plane. Unfortunately, she was flying a borrowed aircraft while in the UK and something went terribly wrong. She was unable to bail out and crashed when the plane suffered a mechanical problem.

It's a terrible loss on so many levels. Vicki was a wonderful person. She was completely at home with the NAE team and I know that everyone looked forward to having her join the team's efforts. She will be missed very much.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Flying High at Sea Fair

I managed to get myself invited to a Sea Fair party. My sister Lori had recently been in touch with an old friend from summer camp when she was around 14. He now lives in Seattle. And obviously, his home overlooking Lake Washington was a fantastic vantage point to watch all the action.

Amazingly, this is the first time I've ever attended Sea Fair. Twenty-two years in the Pacific Northwest and this was the first.

We also had a perfect vantage point to see all of the people who were trying to cross Lake Washington when the I-90 floating bridge was closed. They obviously made the best of the situation. The were allowed to venture a short distance out onto the bridge to watch. There was a similar crowd across the lake on the east side of the bridge.

Many of the Blue Angel's passes ended up going right over our heads. Not bad.

The airshow was fantastic. This was certainly not the first time I've ever seen the Blue Angels perform, but it was one of the best views I've ever had. Quite a sight to see them out over Lake Washington, with Mount Rainer and the city of Bellevue in the distance.

The unlimited hydroplane races weren't bad either, although I would have liked to have had a closer spot from which to watch those. Maybe next year. Hydroplane racing on Lake Washington factors into my book project, so I may just have to get a much closer, personal look at these amazing machines before too much more time passes.

I've got a few more really great photos of the day's events on my Flickr site.