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Reese Dill Aviation safety Lectureship Series

Reese Dill, our good friend, fellow Aero Club member and pilot closed the canopy of his T-6 aircraft for the last time on November 6, 2010.

Reese died when his 1944 North American T-6 "Texan" experienced mechanical difficulties and crashed short of the Fitchburg, MA Municipal Airport.

Reese’s passenger was fortunately able to climb out of the plane. He was released after treatment at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester.

“I think that Reese did all he could to get back to the runway,” Mr. Walker, Fitchburg’s Airport Commissioner, said. “We're trained to look for a safe place to land and do anything you can to just get back to the runway. It could have been a lot more disastrous than it was. “I'm sure Reese did everything he possibly could to avoid hurting anybody or getting killed himself,” he said. “He was a safe guy and smart guy and he really knew that airplane.”

For many years, Reese and his World War Two era plane were a fixture at air shows around New England. He also gave scenic flights, which is what he was doing November 6 when his plane crashed.

Jim Baker, retired Delta Airlines Chief Pilot, and Reese Dill shared a friendship and a love of flying, and owned the same type of airplane. So you can imagine, the shock Baker felt to hear of Dill's death. He said, "We're going to miss him. It's tough. It’s a real loss to the area. Reese was a great guy. A real gentleman. Easy to talk to. Loved to talk. Loved to talk airplanes.”

In Reese's hometown of Weston, Massachusetts, neighbors fondly remember the friendly 73-year-old and say, flying wasn't his only passion. Rick Enfield said, "he spent a lot of time working on his antique cars and he loved to drive them around the neighborhood. He had an old fire engine, a model T, an old Porsche, he'd drive them up and down the street."


Soaring on Laughing, Silver Wings

On Saturday, November 6, 2010, as Reese Dill was making an approach to landing at the Fitchburg airport in central Massachusetts, the Angels of Light decided it was time to call one of their children home. In the blink of an eye the first two lines of High Flight, the beautiful poem by pilot officer John Gillespie Magee became his new reality.

“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings.”

I know from now on whenever I look up and see a plane doing lazy rolls in a sky of brilliant blue, I’ll think of Reese, who has slipped these surly bonds and will soar forever on laughing silver wings in the perfect plane of which he always dreamed.
- Michael Ball

Reese was a Harvard graduate with a degree in Industrial Engineering. His company, DillTec, had a world-wide reputation for high-density book storage used in the major university libraries including Harvard, Yale and Oxford.
Reese was a past president of the Aero Club and remained an active director. He was also an active member of the EAA and Quiet Birdmen.

Reese left many, many fond memories, including one from Ron Gruner: “For me, one of my fondest flying memories with Reese in his T-6 was back around 1990 when we were flying back to Hanscom. It was just after sunset and there was a full moon that evening literally at twelve o’clock high. Reese flew three or four aileron rolls around that big, bright moon. It was maybe the most surreal flying experience I’ve ever had and something I’ll never forget.”

As our other dear friend Bill Cuccinello wrote for the QBs, that quote pretty much sums up Reese "...a fun-loving guy who enjoyed introducing others to the thrill of flying and learning to forget your cares of the day and just enjoy life for the moment."

There are people who fantasize and dream. Reese not only dreamed, he lived his dreams for real.

The Lectureship Series

In 2012, the Aero Club of New England created the Reese Dill Aviation Safety Lectureship Series to honor Reese and his lifelong commitment to aviation. Each November, renowned professionals in aviation join us for an evening of discussion on aviation safety. 

2012 – Patty Wagstaff

Patty Wagstaff, the first Reese Dill Lecturer, is an American aerobatic champion aviator. Once she qualified for the U.S. Aerobatic Team, she was the top U.S. medal winner, winning gold, silver and bronze medals in international competitions for several years. In 1996, Wagstaff was the top-scoring U.S. pilot at the World Aerobatics Championship and also won the General Aviation News and Flyer magazine’s Reader’s Choice Award as favorite female pilot.

From there, Wagstaff received a number of Hall of Fame inductions. They include in 2004, when Wagstaff was elected to the prestigious National Aviation Hall of Fame. In 2006, she was inducted into the International Council of Air Shows Foundation Hall of Fame and, in 2007, into the International Air and Space Hall of Fame at the San Diego Air and Space Museum.

Wagstaff continues to work in the aviation field as an air show pilot, stunt pilot for films, consultant, flight instructor and writer. She is an emeritus board member of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

2013 – Greg Wooldridge

Captain Greg Wooldridge served in the U.S. Navy for 27 years, including as the flight leader and commanding officer of the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels. In addition, Wooldridge made multiple deployments in aircraft carriers, including the USS Ranger, USS Enterprise and USS Midway. He also commanded Navy Fighter/Attack Squadron 195 and the Naval Air Station in Lemoore, California.

Between those tours as commanding officer, Wooldridge was awarded the Presidential Installation of Excellence Award for overseeing the best Navy base worldwide.

On retiring from the Navy in 1997, Greg was hired by FedEx as a flight engineer and instructor for the company and implemented various aviation quality control elements in the training systems that have significantly enhanced flight safety. Now living in Portland, Oregon, Wooldridge serves on the boards of the Oregon International Airshow, USS Ranger (CV-61) Foundation and the Blue Angel Foundation.

2014 – Bruce Whitman 

Bruce Whitman is Chairman, President and CEO of FlightSafety International, an organization he joined in 1961 as Assistant to the President and for which he has held a number of positions. 

Whitman spent two summers as a seaman with the U.S. Merchant Marine while attending college and was later commissioned as a lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, earning the triple ratings of pilot, navigator and bombardier serving in the Strategic Air Command. In 1957, he was appointed Assistant to the Commander at Homestead Air Force Base. 

Whitman currently serves as Co-Chairman of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation; Chairman of the Audit Committee and member of the Executive Committee of Orbis International; and Director Emeritus of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and the Civil Air Patrol. He is Vice-Chairman of the Air Force Academy Falcon Foundation; a Trustee and member of the Executive Committee of the National World War II Museum; a Trustee of Kent School; and member of the Boards of Business Executives for National Security, Corporate Angel Network, PASSUR Aerospace and Vice Chairman of the USO of Metropolitan New York. 

2015 – David L. McKay 

David L. McKay is President and Chief Executive Officer of United States Aircraft Insurance Group. As an Air Safety Investigator, he investigated more than 150 fatal aircraft accidents, worldwide, in participation with the National Transportation Safety Board’s on-site accident team. 

McKay served in the U.S. Air Force as a pilot, primarily flying the Lockheed C-130 aircraft, and achieved the rank of Captain. He holds an Airline Transport Pilot certificate with multi-engine rating and a Flight Instructor certificate with airplane and instrument ratings. He remains an active aviator and owns and operates a Mooney “M201 MSE” aircraft. 

Mr. McKay is active in several organizations that promote aviation and aviation safety. He served as president of The Wings Club in New York City and remains on its board. He serves on the Executive Committees of the Air Charter Safety Foundation and the International Union of Aerospace Insurers and participates on the National Business Aircraft Association’s Associate Member Advisory Council. Additionally, he co-chairs the Safety Committee of the AOPA Foundation’s Air Safety Institute and is an AOPA life member. 

2016 – Sunita L. Williams 

Sunita L. Williams is a NASA astronaut and veteran of two space missions. She is one of the astronauts scheduled to begin riding the first commercial space capsules, the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Dragon, into orbit. 

After receiving her commission as an Ensign in the U.S. Navy, Williams was designated a naval aviator and deployed to the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf in support of Desert Shield and Operation Provide Comfort. In 1992, she served as Officer-in-Charge of detachment and sent to Miami, Florida, for Hurricane Andrew Relief Operations onboard USS Sylvania. 

She later worked in Moscow with the Russian Space Agency before serving as Flight Engineer for Expedition 14/15 and established a world record for women, with four spacewalks totaling more than 29 hours. For Expedition 32/33, Williams launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the International Space Station, where she spent four months conducting research. She has spent a total of 322 days in space, ranking sixth on the all-time U.S. endurance lists. 

2017 – Richard McSpadden 

Richard McSpadden, Executive Director of the AOPA Air Safety Institute (ASI), leads the organization’s efforts to reduce general aviation mishaps by providing free educational resources and supporting AOPA initiatives that improve general aviation safety and grow the pilot population. 

McSpadden is a commercial pilot and CFI with more than 4,500 hours in 30 years of flying a variety of civilian and military aircraft. He has extensive experience in aviation safety, including ground, flight and special event operations. He owns a Cherokee 140 aircraft that he used to instruct his son in obtaining his private pilot certificate. 

His 20-year Air Force career ended with McSpadden’s service as the Commander and Flight Leader of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds flight demonstration team. He headed the U.S. Air Force’s flagship organization in more than 100 flight performances. Prior to joining ASI, McSpadden had a successful career at Hewlett Packard leading large, geographically dispersed operations providing business-critical information technology services.