Flying was more than ' hobby, it was one of his passions.
“He was a great pilot, a safe pilot,” said Mike Scovel, a close friend of Charles, and hangermate at the . “That’s the conundrum right now. Nobody knows what happened.”
Charles died on June 29 while flying his Thorpe T-18; the plane crashed into a Howell Township, MI, house near the Livingston County Airport. Also aboard: flight instructor John Nowak, 70, of Westland. The crash remains under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration.
Charles, married and the father of two, belonged to the Canton-based Experimental Aircraft Association, Michigan Chapter 113. The organization draws amateur pilots from throughout Southeast Michigan and they fly home-built planes, technically called “experimental amateur-built aircraft.”
EAA pilots often fly planes that they craft with their own hands, or, as was the case with Charles, maintain and modify themselves. These projects are not easy nor inexpensive, Scovel said, often taking years to complete.
During required flight reviews, pilots are tested on all phases of flight. But because of the low altitude that recreational aircraft fly at, and the shortness of their flight paths, the FAA does not require the filing of flight plans for recreational aircraft. Several people connected to the airport have confirmed, however, that the flight originated from Canton-Plymouth Mettetal Airport.
The initial investigation suggests two men were attempting to land at the Livingston County Airport. According to Scovel, a preliminary report from the National Transportations and Safety Board is typically released about a month after a crash, though a full determination of the cause could take up to a year.
Father, Husband, Friend
Patrick Lee Charles was born in Ionia, MI, in 1968. He graduated from Ionia High School in 1986, and married to Diana Mecham in 1997. She survives him, as do their two children, Evan, 13, and Madison, 11, his parents, Rudy and Claudia Charles, and many loving family and friends.
“He was a devoted father,” said Scovel, “He was a devoted husband, and he was devoted to his friends – which turned out to be just about everyone he met.”
He worked as a technical engineer for Michigan CAT, a Novi-based construction machinery manufacturer and was a skilled craftsman. He built many things with his hands, including a pedal plane for his kids, and a trout boat for himself. Fishing was another of his beloved pastimes friends said. He also had an integral role in the creation of EAA 113 club house at Plymouth-Canton Mettetal Airport, Scovel said.
Charles was also highly involved in his children's lives, said Anthony Liberatore, close friend and and fellow EAA 113 member. Liberatore's daughters , go to school with Evan and Madison Charles at the . Charles' generous spirit, Liberatore said, which made him such a great friend.
“He was a very selfless individual, a very humble individual” said Liberatore. “He was kind, he was gentle. There just aren’t enough words to describe him.”
Liberatore refers to flying as a “faith calling,” something that gets in the bloodstream from an early age, something pilots are drawn to the way someone of faith would be to their church. An activity many recreational pilots must carve out time to enjoy – they typically fly maybe once a week, often less – it remains a passion-driven hobby, Liberatore said.
Family, flying, work and rich friendships allowed the passionate pilot to touch the lives of many Liberatore said, and in doing so, shared good fortune, happiness and a zest for life.