Reese Dill, our good friend, fellow Aero Club member and pilot closed the canopy of his T-6 aircraft for the last time on November 6, 2010.
Reese died when his 1944 North American T-6 "Texan" experienced mechanical difficulties and crashed short of the Fitchburg, MA Municipal Airport.
Reese’s passenger was fortunately able to climb out of the plane. He was released after treatment at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester.
“I think that Reese did all he could to get back to the runway,” Mr. Walker, Fitchburg’s Airport Commissioner, said. “We're trained to look for a safe place to land and do anything you can to just get back to the runway. It could have been a lot more disastrous than it was.
“I'm sure Reese did everything he possibly could to avoid hurting anybody or getting killed himself,” he said. “He was a safe guy and smart guy and he really knew that airplane.”
For many years, Reese and his World War Two era plane were a fixture at air shows around New England. He also gave scenic flights, which is what he was doing November 6 when his plane crashed.
Jim Baker, retired Delta Airlines Chief Pilot, and Reese Dill shared a friendship and a love of flying, and owned the same type of airplane. So you can imagine, the shock Baker felt to hear of Dill's death. He said, "We're going to miss him. It's tough. It’s a real loss to the area. Reese was a great guy. A real gentleman. Easy to talk to. Loved to talk. Loved to talk airplanes.”
In Reese's hometown of Weston, Massachusetts, neighbors fondly remember the friendly 73-year-old and say, flying wasn't his only passion. Rick Enfield said, "he spent a lot of time working on his antique cars and he loved to drive them around the neighborhood. He had an old fire engine, a model T, an old Porsche, he'd drive them up and down the street."
Soaring on Laughing, Silver Wings
On Saturday, November 6, 2010, as Reese Dill was making an approach to landing at the Fitchburg airport in central Massachusetts, the Angels of Light decided it was time to call one of their children home. In the blink of an eye the first two lines of High Flight, the beautiful poem by pilot officer John Gillespie Magee became his new reality.
“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings.”
I know from now on whenever I look up and see a plane doing lazy rolls in a sky of brilliant blue, I’ll think of Reese, who has slipped these surly bonds and will soar forever on laughing silver wings in the perfect plane of which he always dreamed.
- Michael Ball
Reese was a Harvard graduate with a degree in Industrial Engineering. His company, DillTec, had a world-wide reputation for high-density book storage used in the major university libraries including Harvard, Yale and Oxford.
Reese was a past president of the Aero Club and remained an active director. He was also an active member of the EAA and Quiet Birdmen.
Reese left many, many fond memories, including one from Ron Gruner: “For me, one of my fondest flying memories with Reese in his T-6 was back around 1990 when we were flying back to Hanscom. It was just after sunset and there was a full moon that evening literally at twelve o’clock high. Reese flew three or four aileron rolls around that big, bright moon. It was maybe the most surreal flying experience I’ve ever had and something I’ll never forget.”
As our other dear friend Bill Cuccinello wrote for the QB's, that quote pretty much sums up Reese "...a fun-loving guy who enjoyed introducing others to the thrill of flying and learning to forget your cares of the day, to just enjoy life for the moment."
There are people who fantasize and dream. Reese not only dreamed, he lived his dreams for real.