Jim Cawley could fly a plane before he could drive a car, his family said Thursday.
Crawley, a 62-year-old retired Delta Airlines pilot, was one of two people killed Wednesday when a small plane crashed near Buckley, where both men lived. The other victim was 72-year-old Rodney Richardson.
The World War II-era Navy plane they were flying went down about 3:30 p.m. near the 9200 block of 258th Avenue East. Both men died instantly.
Cawley was friends with Richardson, and had just bought the plane from him, possibly as recently as Wednesday morning, said Kelsey Tomascheski, a Cawley family friend and spokeswoman. The men took the plane up in the morning without any trouble, she said. The craft went down shortly into their second flight of the day.
The National Transportation Security Board is investigating what caused the crash, a review that generally takes weeks or months. The agency did not return a New Tribune call Thursday regarding which man was piloting the plane, or whether they had been co-piloting the craft at the time of the crash.
Both men lived on the private airstrip in the Buckley area where they flew out from Wednesday, Tomascheski said.
The News Tribune was unable to reach anyone in Richardson’s family. KING-TV reported he was also a retired commercial pilot.
Cawley retired in October 2012, after logging more than 30,000 hours during the more than 30 years he worked for Delta, his family said in a statement. He is survived by his wife Cheri of 35 years, and sons Clint, 31, and Curt, 29. Both sons work in aviation, and have flying certifications.
Cawley’s focus in retirement was his love of the outdoors and restoring World War II-era planes, they said.
“The Cawley family is devastated by this loss, but finds comfort in the fact that Jim passed away doing what he loved,” the statement said.
He used to restore the vintage planes with his father and two brothers, said Floyd Nearhood, who was friends with Jim Cawley from the time they were growing up as teenagers near Buckley.
“Each one of the boys, when they hit 16, they flew,” he said. “For them, it was just kind of matter of fact. The whole community is just in disbelief that this could happen to Jim. He was such a good, cautious pilot.”
Nearhood said he didn’t know Richardson well, but knew he and Cawley were friends.
Cawley’s father was a decorated World War II veteran held for a time in a Japanese war camp, said Burton Haugen of Buckley, who said he knows the family and rented land from Jim Cawley for his organic dairy farm.
“He was a good guy,” Haugen said. “I knew him as really nice and sincere.”
Haugen was in a field, pulling a calf Wednesday, when he heard the plane have problems.
“It flew over and it was sputtering and backfiring and he was pretty low,” he said. “I said to my son, ‘They’re going to crash if they don’t pull up.’ I thought they might try to land in one of my fields.
“The guys are such good pilots it’s hard to fathom them crashing.”
Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268
Staff writer Stacia Glenn contributed to this report.