Steamboat Springs A familiar face and plane will be missing from the festivities at Steamboat Springs Airport in early September for the annual Wild West Air Fest.
Parker resident Gary Miller, a frequent Air Fest attendee, died July 9 when his World War II-era plane crashed in Simla while he was practicing aerobatic maneuvers.
Miller flew at the Air Fest the past two years but had brought his airplane to town as part of the annual Labor Day festivities since the early to mid-1990s, said Mike Forney, an Air Fest committee member who emcees the event.
According to a National Transportation Safety Board preliminary accident report, witnesses observed Miller practicing maneuvers for about 15 minutes in an area about 20 miles east of Kiowa and south of Colorado Highway 86. Miller was flying in his North American SNJ-5 model airplane called "Mystical Power."
Witnesses told NTSB investigators that they saw the plane pull up vertically and perform a roll-type maneuver before it entered a spin that continued until it hit the ground. A fire erupted immediately after impact, the NTSB report stated.
"Gary has been actively involved in building his aerobatic performance over the last couple of years," Forney said, adding that Miller had not performed that routine in Steamboat. ": I assume that's what he was doing when he lost control."
Dan Baker, an NTSB investigator, said his portion of the investigation takes three to six months. He said it would be forwarded for review to NTSB's headquarters, which will determine probable cause and publish a brief. Until then, no more information would be available about the accident, Baker said.
Miller operated Gary Miller Airshows. According to his Web site, he leaves behind his wife, Becky, and four children, Lindsay, 18; Geoffrey, 17; Lauren and Taylor Anne, both 14.
Forney said Miller had committed to return to Steamboat on Sept. 5 and 6 for the fifth annual Wild West Air Fest to provide rides in "Mystical Power."
"He was very excited about coming," Forney said. "He said to me, this is the one event he wouldn't miss because he really enjoyed the hospitality, the people and the airport.
"He had a special place in his heart for Steamboat. And so did we for him."
A memorial service took place July 14 at Centennial Airport in Englewood. Contributions can be sent to Miller Children's College Fund - Air Power West, 3271 Springmeadow Circle, Castle Rock, CO 80109.
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