The life of Ford Cederblom lasted only 20 years, but in that time he touched a lot of lives with his outgoing personality and sensitive nature.
Ford was killed in an airplane crash near Carlsbad, Calif., May 10 while on a routine training flight from Phoenix, where he was attending Pan Am International Flight Academy. He and another student, Damon Lott of Utah were on their way to Carlsbad’s McClellan-Palomar Airport. There were five planes from the school, all following the same route 20 miles apart. The preliminary National Transportation Safety Board investigation indicated that they descended to 5,200 feet from 8,000 feet, in response to air traffic control instruction, when the crash occurred.
“The preliminary NTSB (investigation) is pointing the finger at air traffic control,” his father, Brad Cederblom, said. “They gave the wrong directions to the plane.”
Ford grew up in Rathdrum, the eldest of the four Cederblom children. He was 2 when his parents moved into the home the family still shares. Ford’s parents, Brad and Linda, were high school sweethearts at Coeur d’Alene High School. They had their 25th wedding anniversary June 16, but they have postponed the celebration until next year. Ford was to come home for the event. But the last time his family saw him was in April, when he came home for a surprise visit.
“He died doing what he loved, and he died immediately,” Brad said.
A huge influence in Ford’s life was his teacher, Cheryl Cox. Ford was entering seventh grade when she first met him in a 1996 summer aviation program. He was in the program the next summer, too. Cheryl is an English teacher, but she is also a flight instructor and a private pilot. She taught an elective class at Lakeland Junior High similar to a flight school during the regular school year. In the summer enrichment program, Cheryl taught the basics of flight to a full class of 12 students. Ford then took the flight school class in the eighth grade.
“Some kids were just meant to fly; he was one of them,” Cheryl said. She told him if he could stay on the honor roll, he would earn his flying lessons. Cheryl moved on to Timberlake High School but continued to instruct Ford in flying. They took to the air together in 1997 in her Cessna 172.
“In the summer enrichment program, I offered any student a ride that would bring their parents,” Cheryl said.
Ford showed up with his father, Brad, July 5, 1997.
“I took three kids from that class up that day, and Ford was one of them,” Cheryl said. “I put Ford in the left-hand seat and had to put a cushion under him so he could see over the cowling.”
After that, he would call Cheryl on a regular basis to ask about PC based flight simulators, which he loved to use.
Cheryl taught him how to take off and land an airplane, fly from airport to airport and work the radio from the left seat. This was all while he was still in high school. The last time they flew together was Oct. 8, 2001.
Cheryl is still a pilot and does check-rides for pilots for their biennial license renewal. She retired from teaching school and now lives in Idaho Falls, her hometown.
“People ask me what I did for Ford,” Cheryl said. “I don’t think I ever had a student who was that enthusiastic. He wanted to fly. More credit has to be given to Ford’s own drive. He never forgot to thank those who helped him along the way.”
Brad and Linda said Cheryl was responsible for nominating Ford to be in the Who’s Who of American High School Students. He was on the list his junior and senior years.
“The voice from the dead came back, a week after Ford had died,” Brad said. “The Timberlake secretary called up and said, ‘This is bizarre. Your son has submitted Cheryl Cox’s name for the Who’s Who of Teachers.’ “
Cheryl continued to mentor Ford after she moved to Idaho Falls.
Another special teacher, Danielle Bean, had Ford as a student for two years. Later, he was her teacher’s aide.
“He’s the reason people like me become teachers and stay teachers,” Danielle said. “He was always kind to other kids. He was a bright kid and he had goals. He was so set on meeting those goals. He had the ability to tell if other kids were headed in the wrong direction.”
Danielle said that he would always come and say hello to her when he came back from Arizona.
After his graduation from Lakeland, Ford attended North Idaho Colleg for one year to get some of his pre-requisites out of the way. His plan was to go to school in North Dakota, but as it got closer he didn’t like the idea of going to the cold North Dakota climate. He liked Pan Am because it was an accelerated program, where he could get out in half the time.
“He was going to school seven days a week,” Brad said. “Then he would fly all but two days. He would have had all of his commercial ratings by Thanksgiving or Christmas.”
Ford still would have had to gain more hours of flight time, but his parents said Pan Am would have hired him as a flight instructor. Spokane Falls Community College had offered him a job as an instructor as well.
“His plan was to stay instructing at Pan Am until he had the hours required by the airlines to apply for a job as first officer; typically that is 1,000 total hours” and 200 multi-engine airplane hours, Linda said.
Ford was on his last flight where he had to wear the hood required for instrument training, when the crash occurred.
Ford had a lot of friends who were very close to him, male and female, according to Brad and Linda. They got a kick out of the fact that Ford had already decided that he would get married at age 35. More than 1,000 people were at his funeral, and the Cederbloms have received hundreds of letters and well-wishes often from people they did not know.
“We’ve gotten letters and cards from people I didn’t even know he knew, how he had touched their lives,” Linda said. “One from a lady who sent us a little postcard that said when he worked at the mall, he would walk her daughter out to her car every night after work to make sure she got there safe.”
He worked at the Sam Goody store in the Silver Lake Mall for a while, and when it closed, he worked at the Sunglass Hut. Linda said that he would also do fill-in jobs at other businesses in the mall, and they received many complimentary letters from his mall friends and employees. He liked the socialization of the mall.
Mother’s Day was the night before the accident. Ford had flown to Las Vegas with several other students, and knowing how much Linda loved Las Vegas, he called to wish her a happy Mother’s Day and rub it in a little that he was there. He made all the other guys call their moms the minute they stepped off the plane, to wish them a Happy Mother’s Day. One of those young men was Damon Lott.
It would be the last time Damon talked to his mother, too, and it was due to Ford’s prompt.
He was very good about calling his folks and called them usually every other day. He was quite the communicator, constantly writing, e-mailing or text messaging his friends. He signed all of his cards and letters to his parents, “your first-born son.”
As a child, Ford was in 4-H, primarily with rabbits and steers
The Cederbloms have two horses, but they are the love of 16-year-old Abby, the only daughter. Ford discovered things with wheels were much better suited to him.
His brothers, Weston, 14, and Colton, 11, and Abby looked up to him and admired him. They never fought with Ford.
Abby said her last conversation with Ford was about her softball game. She had hit a home run and had a great game and was excited to tell him.
“I just wanted to talk about how his day was and how my day was, but he was talking about big stuff, like my future, my goals, to do this and not to do that,” Abby said. “When I hung up, I thought it was weird because I wanted to talk about everyday stuff and he kept going back to my future. I know he didn’t know he was going to die, but I think that God might have known, and so he had Ford tell me that.”
Ford was always very supportive of his younger brothers, who play sports. Weston said he came to all of their games — basketball, football, baseball and soccer.
“He hated sports, but he made an effort to go to the games,” Weston said.
When Ford was 12, he drew a once-in-a-lifetime permit to hunt moose in the Clark Fork area, something that has been elusive to Brad year after year. He successfully shot a moose and then got his first deer a month later.
When Ford was younger, Brad and Linda were always amazed at how well he could talk to an adult.
Linda read a letter from the mother of one of Ford’s friends: “Most of all I remember how mature he always seemed beyond his years. A lot of times when he was at our house, he would visit with me. Not a lot of kids think it’s cool to visit with the parents, and we actually had heart-to-heart conversations.”
Linda summed it up: “Ford did articulate his feelings to people. He was very special.”
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