A sweatshirt and coveralls stained with grease and sweat sit on a work table at Felts Field exactly where Capt. Tyler Voss left them.
He bought his Van’s RV-8 kit aircraft two years ago. Now it waits for a new plastic canopy in a hangar for the Experimental Aircraft Association. The wings are still speckled with bugs from prior flights.
Voss perished in a plane crash in Kyrgyzstan on May 3 that killed two other airmen based at Fairchild Air Force Base.
To honor Voss, friends, colleagues and chapter members looked to the sky Friday evening at Felts Field. The crowd hushed as they watched four biplanes fly over, one splitting off to perform the dramatic “missing man” formation.
The tradition is honored for many airmen and members of the Experimental Aircraft Association. At 27 years old, Voss was one of the youngest members of the club, oftentimes teaching veteran pilots a thing or two about aircraft construction.
EAA Chapter 79 President Jack Hohner said Voss was the best you could find because “not only was he young, bright and smart, he was a tanker pilot. That’s a tremendous achievement right there.”
Voss was a 2008 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy in aeronautical engineering, according to Fairchild’s website. He became an aircraft commander this year.
The “missing man” tribute came one week after news of the crash. The news was a blow to Hohner, who recently let Voss move his aircraft to the hangar for a better work environment.
“I couldn’t believe it – those tankers rarely go down,” Hohner said. “The bench is just like he left (it) – he was only going to be gone two months.”
Those who knew him, if only briefly, honored his memory during a moment of silence after the flyover. Friends, including Manny Ochoa, posed around Voss’ unfinished aircraft for a group photo.
“To see all these people – it’s a testament to the community and a testament to how great Tyler was,” Ochoa said. “They remember him for something he loved to do the most.”
Friends signed their tributes to Voss – remembering their flights together and the promised flights unfulfilled. He loved flying low over Lake Coeur d’Alene, friend Mike Capelle said. They flew together twice: “I couldn’t have imagined a more fun day.”
Voss deployed several times during his military career, but when he was home he worked on his plane, Capelle added.
He spent nearly every night at the hangar, trying to complete the plane in time for the summer flying season, Hohner said. He estimated Voss only had 20 to 30 hours of work to go before it was done. Now, that work falls on the chapter and fellow pilots who have committed to finishing the plane.
A volunteer will then fly the precious aircraft to Voss’ family in family in Texas, Hohner said.
A biplane separates from its group for the missing man formation. Video by Nicole Hensley