Robert “Vince” Herrick had a love of flying that was second only to the love for his late wife, family members said.
A pilot for 60 years, Herrick at age 92 still enjoyed flying his 1946 Ercoupe 415-C in the vicinity of his hometown of Nickerson, Neb.
“He flew for pleasure, and that's probably what he was doing yesterday,” Steve Fauss, his son-in-law, said Friday. “It wasn't uncommon for him to fly every day the weather was nice.”
Herrick, who had the use of only one eye, was about 25 miles east of his hometown Thursday in his Ercoupe when it took a nose dive about 5:15 p.m. into a storage lot at the Woodhouse auto dealership in Blair.
The crash killed Herrick on impact, authorities said.
The Ercoupe is classified as a light sport aircraft.
According to Federal Aviation Administration regulations, a person with a valid pilot's license may continue to fly light aircraft as long as he or she maintains a valid motor vehicle driver's license, which was the case with Herrick.
There are no age limits on flying as long as a pilot's medical clearance is up to date, Tony Molinaro of the FAA said.
Pilots flying light aircraft are not required to receive annual or biennial medical examinations, though a pilot must fulfill any medical requirements of his driver's license. Pilots are not required to file flight plans for recreational planes.
Witnesses said the single-engine plane was flying unusually low and clipped power lines near the storage lot before the crash. The aircraft avoided the main part of the dealership, which was open for business.
No one else was injured.
The Washington County attorney has not yet released autopsy results.
The Ercoupe is stable and easy to fly, said Skip Carden, executive director of the Ercoupe Owners Club in Timberlake, N.C.
The twin-tailed aircraft, weighing 800 pounds when empty, is considered “incapable of spinning and really hard to stall,” Carden said.
The Ercoupe carries just 14 gallons of fuel and has a cruising speed of 108 mph. Its stalling speed is about 55 mph.
“Those planes were built for anyone to fly,” Carden said. “They don't have foot rudder controls, so that makes it a good plane for amputees to fly.”
Fauss said Herrick lost an eye many years ago in a shop accident, but he would still fly his plane regularly.
“That guy flew more single-engines than anyone I knew,” said Quentin Marquardt of Nickerson, who used to hangar next to Herrick at the Scribner State Airport. “He might keep them for two weeks and then trade them. He just loved to fly.”
Herrick stayed active as a member of the Nickerson Village Board and built a park for the town's children dedicated to the memory of his wife of 62 years, Birdie-Belle. He also owned a cattle insemination business in Nickerson until retiring at 65.
His funeral will be at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at Moser Memorial Chapel, 2170 N. Somers Ave. in Fremont.
Herrick's survivors include daughters Roxie Fauss of Nickerson and Saralee Hocking of Beemer, Neb.; son Bob Herrick of Salisbury, Tenn.; and brothers Lynn of Brady, Neb., and Harlan, Ted and Norman, all of North Platte.
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