Chad Beer, the pilot who died in Monday afternoon's crash on Davidson Glacier south of Haines, dreamed of flying from age 3.
"His life-long ambition was to be a pilot," said his step-father, Bruce Mallum of Bovey, Minn. "When he was 3 years old, his father and grandpa had an airplane. Every year he used to go to the big air show in Oshkosh, Wis. His first cross-country flight was to Oshkosh."
Beer, 26, earned his pilot's license at 18 and his instrument and commercial ratings two years later, Mallum said from his hotel room this morning. Mallum and his wife, Cheryl, arrived in Juneau on Wednesday.
"He loved flying in Alaska. He said it was so beautiful, and he wanted us to see it. It's not the way I wanted to see it, but it is beautiful and the people are phenomenal as far as caring," Mallum said.
Chad and his fiancee, Melissa Ward, were expecting a child in January.
"He loved flying and he loved his plane and he loved his son, Angelo," who is 6, Ward said. "He was a very kind, loving soul. We met a year ago (during Beer's first seasonal tour with LAB Flying Service), and it was love at first sight. We were going to get married."
Beer was piloting a single-engine flightseeing plane over the east side of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve when it crashed on Davidson Glacier.
Four German nationals and their Canadian tour guide also died in the crash. The bodies were recovered Thursday by an Army National Guard helicopter. Recovery efforts had been stalled Tuesday by bad weather and Wednesday when a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter broke down while at the crash site.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash. The wreckage of the Cherokee Six may be collected and taken to Haines or Juneau so that it can be scrutinized closely, said Clint Johnson, NTSB investigator. The body of Beer will undergo autopsy in Anchorage.
Others killed in the crash are tour guide Marianne Cederberg, 55, of Toronto; Helmut Auer of Baden-Wurtemberg; Martin Federhofer of Hamburg; and Uwe Kahlbohm, 59, and his wife Siegrid, 65, of Bremerhaven, Germany.
A memorial service for Beer will be held at 7 p.m. today at the Church of God - Glacier Valley, 8497 Thunder Mountain Road. Beer's friends and colleagues are invited.
Ann Chandonnet can be reached at achandonnet@juneauempire.
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