Crash of experimental plane kills WSU aerospace graduate
BY MOLLY MCMILLIN
The Wichita Eagle/Associated Press
Nathan Forrest was a sharp student who brought a pilot's perspective to the aeronautical engineering process. "He had a good mix," said Scott Miller, chairman of aerospace engineering at Wichita State University and one of Forrest's instructors.
Miller recommended Forrest for his first job as an aeronautical engineer and test pilot at Adam Aircraft in Colorado. Forrest, 25, left Adam in May to join Spectrum Aeronautical in Utah.
Forrest was killed last week when the experimental Spectrum 33 twin-engine plane he was co-piloting and flight-testing crashed during takeoff.
Also killed in the crash was 53-year old Glenn Maben, Spectrum's director of flight operations.
"Glenn and Nathan were two of the finest gentlemen and pilots," Spectrum president Austin Blue said. "Their loss is a great tragedy."
A former Olathe resident, Forrest graduated magna cum laude from WSU in 2003. He stayed in contact with Miller, who last received an e-mail from Forrest on July 14.
In the e-mail, Forrest said he had moved to Spectrum and was working on its new airplane. He was a test pilot and the company's vice director of flight operations.
"He was pretty excited about it," Miller said.
Dave Dewhirst, owner of Sabris Corp., a Wichita flight school, said Forrest was a free-lance flight instructor during college who used some of Sabris' airplanes when he gave lessons.
A couple of years ago, Dewhirst gave Forrest instruction in formation flying techniques.
"You could tell by his skills and his enthusiasm and his interest that he was destined for an aviation career of quality," Dewhirst said.
The fact that Forrest landed a job test-flying a brand new prototype at such a young age is significant, Dewhirst said. "They just don't let anybody fly those," he said. The Spectrum 33 is a light business jet made from advanced composite materials. It made its first flight on Jan. 7. It has since flown more than 40 times, Blue said.
Spectrum's founder is Linden Blue, former president and chief executive of Beech Aircraft, where he directed the initial development of the Starship. He also was vice president and general manager of Learjet in Wichita.
Witnesses told officers that shortly after takeoff, the plane rolled to the right, dipping its wing into the ground. The fuselage cartwheeled and then slid several hundred yards until it came to rest northeast of the runway at the Spanish Fork, Utah, airport.
Forrest was a 1999 graduate of Olathe North High School. While at WSU, he was a member and chaplain of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity.
Contributing: Associated Press, McClatchy-Tribune