PILOT IN CRASH WAS INVENTIVE ENGINEER
Thomas Schultz, News-Press Staff Writer
February 2, 2006
A man who was killed over the weekend when his aircraft crashed into an alfalfa field short of the Santa Ynez Valley Airport was identified by family members this week as Richard "Dick" Reichel, 76, of Santa Barbara.
Mr. Reichel's body was badly burned when the $100,000 single-engine Lancair plane he built from a kit fell to the ground around 1:34 p.m. Saturday.
On Wednesday, an official at the National Transportation Safety Board said it could be months before the agency concludes an investigation into what caused the crash.
"It's not unusual for experimental aircraft to have problems," said Mr. Reichel's older brother Al Reichel, himself a retired Navy pilot. "He ran out of options. He was a great guy."
Recalling his younger brother as a savvy craftsman, area resident Al Reichel said a love of aviation runs through their family. "He tried very hard to please everyone that he came into contact with," he said, adding that his brother also was a skilled sailor.
"He was experienced in all respects. Obviously, something went wrong mechanically in the airplane that he hadn't anticipated. I like to think he was trying to get back to the airport.
"He was the kind of brother you'd like to have. He just had his finger on so many pulses it's hard to know where to start and stop."
Mr. Reichel attended Redlands University and Oregon State University, earning a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. After graduation, he served in the Army for two years, according to his family.
He then applied his engineering expertise at Los Angeles-based Hughes and Northrop aircraft plants. In 1957, he relocated to Santa Barbara with his then-wife, Joyce, and they started a family, raising four boys.
Mr. Reichel worked at Raytheon in Goleta as an engineer. After six years there, he created International Sorting Systems, a copper mining company in Michigan.
When fire destroyed his Michigan plant in 1975, Mr. Reichel began a number of entrepreneurial pursuits including the Santa Barbara Sailing Academy, consulting on water purification plants internationally and developing computer software for the hospitality industry.
In more recent years, he followed in his father's footsteps in the horticultural field as an avid orchid grower.
Among his creations was a supersonic horn to knock sawdust from silos at big lumber mills and a machine to sort silverware for large catering companies. And he created a way to sort toxic peanuts from turkey feed using a photosensitive device, according to a cousin.
A memorial service at the Santa Barbara Yacht Club will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. Friday.
Richard dated my mother for years and years but she refused to get married again. They dated for so long it felt more comfortable to call him "my step-dad" even though he officially wasn't....but in my heart he was. I remained in touch years after he and my mother no longer saw each other. He was the only real father figure I ever really knew. I was waiting to get settled back home in Santa Barbara before I stopped by the house and announced "Looks who's baaaaaaack"
But it's too late. He's gone. I'm devestated. I'm in shock.
Here's to Richard who taught me how to sail; how to appreciate the glorious feeling of gliding on the air; taught me how to cook; taught me how to give a good backrub; taught me the delights of science and nature; taught me the meaning of compassion; taught me a good number of dirty old salty dog sea shanties; taught me how to deal with frozen water pipes at thanksgiving at the cabin at Big Bear; who accompanied me on the guitar; who always gave me opportunities when my real parents wouldn't; who always encouraged me no matter what; who made me learn the hard way the meaning of "duck" when the boom was in motion; who taught me how to understand the "secret language" of engineers; who taught me the beauty of photography; who taught me to always ask "why" and "why not?"; who taught me that knowledge was a life long quest.
I want the world to be introduced to and remember a rare and very special human being....my step-dad.
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