MINDEN -- The deaths of two experienced pilots last Friday, based at Minden-Tahoe Airport, are being mourned in Carson Valley.
Pilot Carl Dolbeare, 54, of Chandler, Ariz., who resided in Carson Valley for long periods, and co-pilot John Attardo, 51, of Fort Collins, Colo., died Friday morning. Their P2V air tanker crashed about 9 miles west of San Bernadino, Calif., where the plane was based and under contract to the U.S. Forest Service, according to Mica Bryant, office manager at Minden Air Corp.
Dolbeare and Attardo were long-time employees of Minden Air. Owners Leonard and Janet Parker are in the California area to investigate the crash.
The P2V-7, one of three owned and contracted out by Minden Air Corp., was built in 1956. Erin Harris, 33, of Minden was Dolbeare's mechanic the last five years.
He had been with the plane and crew when it was contracted at an Alamogordo, N.M., air tanker base and then in Missoula, Mont., later this year. It was moved to the San Bernadino base in August. Another mechanic then took over.
Harris said Dolbeare was a conservative pilot.
"He was a very experienced pilot, in the business more than 25 years," Harris said. "He was an extremely nice person -- the kind of person who didn't have any enemies.
"Carl knew the dangers, but flying airplanes was the only thing he ever wanted to do since he was a little kid."
Harris said the crashed plane was last serviced in May, and that Dolbeare considered it his favorite plane.
"He was very comfortable with it," Harris said.
Minden Air has contracted with the U.S. Forest Service for 14 years and has never been involved in a plane accident, Bryant said.
Attardo and Dolbeare were good friends.
"They got along well," Harris said of the crew.
"John was also a very nice guy. He was meticulous and kept the airplane in great shape," he said. "He was also a very good pilot, in the business for eight years."
Harris said the men had been fighting fires on public land near the Grand Canyon late last week. The crew flew out of Prescott, Ariz. The crash was reported at 11:30 a.m. Friday.
"From what I understand there was a visibility issue," Harris said.
An official report from the National Transportation Safety Board will be forthcoming.
Attardo and his wife resided in Fort Collins, Colo. Dolbeare was not married, but has family in Tempe, Ariz.
The other two P2V-7 in Minden Air Corp.'s fleet are based in Boise, Idaho, to fight fires for the Forest Service.
The weekend crash echoes another accident that hit close to home. On June 17, 2002, three firefighters, including Gardnerville resident and pilot Steve Wass, 42, died while fighting the Cannon Fire in Walker, Calif. Wass and crew Craig LaBare, 36, of Loomis, Calif., and Mike Davis, 59, of Bakersfield, Calif., died after the wings of their C-130A air tanker, also under contract to the Forest Service, buckled.
Harris said that Dolbeare took his work seriously.
"He really enjoyed flying, but it was important for him to do everything he could to put out fires," Harris said. "He took it personal and always tried to do the best that he could."