They say that if you are in aviation long enough, you will lose a friend to an aviation related accident. I guess that is true of any endeavor in life that contains risk but it has happened here. We have to regretfully say that Great Commission Aviation Board Member, Steve Merritt, passed away today (December 18, 2017) due to injuries sustained in a plane crash that occurred on Saturday, December 16, 2017. Before I say anything else, I will really miss him. He was my biggest mentor in aviation.
I met Steve a few years ago while I was training for my Instrument Rating. He and I hit it off immediately as I shared the dream of Great Commission Aviation. Steve had a passion for ministering to others through aviation and was my opportunity for flying missions such as the trip to Eleuthera, The Bahamas. He had touched people all over the country, and world, but was humble enough to take younger pilots under his wing. If there was a desire and a passion for aviation, he wanted to help you make it happen.
I had lunch with Steve at least twice a month, usually at Johnnie’s Barbecue in Louisburg, NC. On Fridays, they serve what Steve called the “Fred Flintstone”. It is a fish sandwich where the fried fish filet hangs over both sides of the bun. At these lunches with Steve and other older pilots, I was regaled with flying stories and North Carolina aviation history. I learned more from these lunches than any training I have ever received in an airplane.
Steve was also known for his pithy sayings, or Steve-isms. These included:
- Don’t major in the minors.
- A Cessna can fly a little overweight, it cannot fly a little out of gas.
- Altitude, Airspeed and Ability; A pilot always needs 2 of the 3.
- Hey look, there’s 5 pilots and 6 opinions in this room.
At this point, the FAA and NTSB are conducting investigations into the accident. Therefore, I will not speculate nor expound on the event.
A wise old pilot once said that there are pilots who know that today is the last day they will ever fly an airplane and there are pilots who do not know that today is the last day they will ever fly an airplane. Steve woke up Saturday morning not knowing that it would be his last day to fly. Let that be a wake-up call to all of us about our inevitable mortality. There will be a day where we stand before our Lord and long to hear “well done, my good and faithful servant.”
Blue Skies and Tailwinds, Steve Merritt.