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The Aero Experience is a celebration of Midwest aviation and aerospace achievement. We invite you to join us as we explore the treasures of Midwest aviation through first-hand experiences. Our contributors take turns flying lead, and we are always looking for new destinations. Check in with The Aero Experience frequently to see where we will land today, and then go out and have your own aero experiences!

Blue skies,

Carmelo Turdo, Mark Nankivil and Fred Harl - The Aero Experience Team












Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Tribute to Steve O'Berg: Thanksgiving for a Life Well Lived

By Leo Cachat
The Aero Experience was privileged to be a part of the media coverage at the 2015 Cameron, MO Airshow.  We, like others who were there, witnessed a tragic accident which took the life of a very experienced pilot, Steve O'berg, during Saturday's airshow.

Steve O'Berg flew his slick-looking red and white Pitts S-2B with the energy and precision needed to hold the crowd's attention. He was 50 years old, a husband, father, grandfather, son and brother. He had 4,000 hours of flight time while serving in the U.S. Army, 400 of which he spent flying missions in Iraq. He also had 7,000 hours flight time in various helicopters and airplanes.

This was the second year in a row I was privileged to watch him fly in Cameron. I never got a chance to talk to him because it seemed like he was always getting ready to fly, which was fine with me because that's what I love to watch. At this year's show, during Saturday's briefing, he stood just one person away from me and the last thing I heard him say made everyone who heard it laugh.  Although I didn't know him personally, those who did had nothing but good things to say about him, and I'd have to believe them based on all the pictures I have of him taxiing by me at the show.  He always had a big smile and a wave. You could tell he loved what he was doing.

Another photographer and myself were the closest to him when he went down, and it was something I will never forget.  When it happened, I just said a prayer and got across the runway and out of the way so the emergency personnel could get to his location. It was something I hope no one ever again has to witness. As I stood in shock with everyone else watching what was playing out, many things were going through my head.  I thought of his family first and prayed that God would watch over them and comfort them as they must have been horrified by what had happened.  I thought of other pilots who had passed away performing at airshows, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't tear up thinking about how these men and women put their lives on the line for people like me who lose all sense of everything in the world while watching them perform as since I was little. I hope everyone takes time, if they get a chance, to talk to the pilots and thank them for what they do.  Although they make it look effortless, the margin for error is very slim.

I guess one of the biggest things that hit me after I got over the shock of the event itself was how Steve O'Berg affected people even after his accident.  Generally there is a certain disconnect between performers and photographers at airshows. We as photographers want to get great photographs, but we don't want to be overbearing towards the pilots in doing so. So there is a certain sort of line that separates us.  In the briefing after the accident, it was as if that line didn't exist.  It wasn't pilots and photographers; it was a group of caring human beings who had a deep concern for a husband, father, grandfather, son and brother, and that day his last flight created a bond between us all. Thank you one last time. Steve. Thank you to the O'berg family for supporting him in what he loved and what we love. You will be missed.

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2 comments:

Dan Bishop said...

I still weep as I just read the investigation report of the accident. My wife gave me the thrill of a lifetime, it was a ride with Steve into the sky. I remember every moment clearly, his wife surprising me with the ticket,she was in the tent right behind me Steve gave me the impression he was interested in me and of coarse I was excited to be in his presence. He ask questions and found out I was a pilot, not on his level, but I thought he gave me a little extra fun ride because I enjoyed it so much. I spent about 45 min with him total. I am 66 years old and I felt that he had been my friend a long time. I was in the front row watching him. My friends had to console me when he went down. I was the last one to ride with Steve. I did not ask him if he was a Christian, I sure hope he was, because I sure want to see him again. Dan bishop

Carmelo Turdo said...

Thanks for your touching remembrance. Our team was fortunate to meet Steve the Friday before and visit with him Saturday morning. TAE