LUMBERTON — A Raeford man who was killed when his plane crashed in Ohio recently is remembered by a friend from the Lumberton airport as a seasoned pilot and a “giving person.”
Gerald Chamberlain, known by many as Jerry, kept two planes at Lumberton Regional Airport, including the one that crashed on July 20 at about 11:45 a.m. in woods near Rutland, Ohio, while on a trip to an airshow in Wisconsin. He was alone in the plane.
The crash is under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration, but the cause appears to be a mechanical failure.
“He was one of the finest fellas you ever wanted to meet in your life,” said Bobby Jones, a member of the Lumberton Regional Airport Commission and a friend and fellow pilot of Chamberlain’s.
Jones, who had known Chamberlain for about four years, said Chamberlain kept two planes, including a single-engine fixed wing aircraft Chamberlain was flying to Oshkosh, Wis., for the Experimental Aviation Association’s fly-in and air show. Chamberlain built the plane himself, Jones said.
“The plane was in good shape,” he said. “We’d fly, we’d go to the beach with it. We’d just fly different places. It was a real reliable plane.”
Jones said he last spoke with Chamberlain the day before the crash.
“We talked about his flight and watching out for the weather before he left,” he said. “… He had all the equipment in the airplane to see the weather ahead of him. But when you’re in the mountains, weather can move in on you real quick.”
According to an obituary published in The Syracuse Post Standard, Chamberlain served a term in the U.S. Navy in his teens before becoming a truck driver for P&C Foods Inc. in Syracuse for 28 years. He retired from P&C Foods and became a full-time driver for Walmart in Hope Mills for 15 years, and was employed with them at the time of his death. He is survived by three sons, a daughter and other family members.
Jones said the 72-year-old Chamberlain was on the verge of retiring.
“He just enjoyed working,” he said.
The other pilots would poke fun at Chamberlain and how nice he was.
“He was a friend to everybody,” Jones said. “He’d introduce himself, ‘My name is Jerry Chamberlain. You want to go flying?’ He was a good pilot. I bet he flew hundreds of people.”
Jones said the accident could have been caused by weather or mechanical issues, but that was only speculation.
“He was a safe pilot,” Jones said. “Nobody will ever know what happened except Jerry.”