Airshows Fallen Star Series
As part of Atlantic Flyers tribute to Air Shows and the people who make them special we are honored to tell you a little about Wyatt Fuller, a 2007 fallen aviator. Wyatt was a husband and a dad, a friend to countless people from across the country, a pilot and someone who strove for perfection in whatever he did. Born in 1946, Fuller worked with Braniff for 20 years but in the early 1990s he began building imaginative Harley-Davidson custom bikes out of his Razorback Motor Works operation in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He excelled at motorcycle design and in 1994 Harley-Davidson purchased Razorback and contracted with him to continue to design accessories for Harley-Davidson exclusively. Wyatt moved from Florida and set up shop in Hickory, NC where he continued his success as a designer. His motor cycle successes fueled another passion - flying. Wyatt was especially fond of vintage warbirds, restoring them, flying them and sharing them with the public. His first warbird was a T6 soon followed by a special restoration, of his F86 Sabre jet. Once a warbird, his aircraft was a new fighter in 1954. Saber jets entered the US Air Force service in 1949 and saw extensive action in the Korean War. The F86, with its swept back wings surrounding a rocket fuselage with a tail represented America’s fastest jet, capable of flying at over 700 mph and climbing to a ceiling of 45,000 feet.
Only about fifteen of the original 9,502 Sabre jets are still flying and they fly only because of the determination of their owners and pilots. Wyatt appreciated flying the F86 and his determination to entertain the public both at air shows and in general was easy to see. One story I recently read talked about how Wyatt flew his F-86 fighter aircraft to the Springfield, Missouri, airport for the benefit of the former Cold War 21st Fighter Bomber Wing. He joined pilots, maintainers, support personnel, and families who meet every two years to maintain their friendships from a time when our nation was containing the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Wyatt flew from his home in Hickory to Springfield, at his own expense, and spent the weekend with men and women he admired for protecting our nation’s freedoms.
Aircraft of any age require maintenance and the pilots continued education. Wyatt stayed on top of his game in both. His pilot safety experience was demonstrated more than once and captured on film when his F86 right gear wouldn’t cooperate and he made a perfect two point landing. Wyatt was more than an accomplished pilot, in 2006 he won Reserve Grand Champion and it’s believed if he had arrived in Oshkosh this year, he would have won Grand Champion. Fate intervened on July 24th on his way to the Experimental Aircraft Association’s annual Fly-In in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. As Wyatt was attempting a takeoff from his home airport, Hickory Regional Airport, the plane failed to lift off. Aware that something had gone terribly wrong, he tried to stop the jet fighter but ran out of room and crashed on the airport’s access road. The F86 does not have what we know as a zero-zero ejection seat, meaning that you can’t eject with zero forward airspeed and zero altitude. If there is a problem during take-off you are not able to eject out of the aircraft and survive. The aircraft broke apart and he died at the scene. I read a blog entry left early in the morning on July 25th, the day after the crash. I thought it captured both honors to our fallen stars and looked forward to the future pilots of tomorrow: “We toast our hearty comrades who have fallen from the skies, and were gently caught by God’s own hands to be with him on high, To dwell among the soaring clouds they have known so well before, From victory roll to tail chase, at heaven’s very door. And as we fly among them, we’re sure to hear their plea, Take care, my friend, watch your six, and do one more roll for me.” Wyatt, although I never knew him, loved excitement and sharing it with others. He was a safe pilot with a love of flying deeply entrenched in him. Yet, unfortunately, we lost an exceptional pilot doing something that he loved. It could have happened in a sports car or on one of his famous motorcycles but it happened in an aircraft. His family, friends and the air show community will miss his kind hearted gracious spirit. Wyatt is a fallen star who has left his mark in this world.
Over the coming months the Atlantic Flyer will feature stories on the many pilots who have made air shows the great family entertainment they represent and the up and coming pilots who will extend the tradition of air shows.
John Cilio is a freelance writer, transportation historian and member of the Connecticut Lost Squadron Veterans Group. He lives in Sherman, CT. You can contact John at: firstname.lastname@example.org.