Bruce Jackson has appeared three times in this blog. He was in disguise the first time, as the Friend: who introduced me to Carly Simon, a day of cherished memory. His second appearance was as the pilot and camera owner (but not wielder) responsible for the first photograph in this blogitem. Although I was referring to myself in the third, I was thinking of Bruce while I wrote it. He, his intended (and subsequently ex-) wife and I took the same ride around the Statue of Liberty described in that sad story, although we flew out of Teterboro instead of my home airport farther west.
Bruce was enthusiastic about flying. The first time I went up with him was on a trip to Clair Brothers in 1979. We took a detour to have a look at the Three Mile Island reactor of then-urgent concern. No photo, unfortunately — it was dark at the time. If memory serves, he did not yet have his fast, slippery Mooney, but rather the smaller Grumman American of which he was most fond. The Mooney is an impressively speedy aircraft. Flying with Bruce over southern California out of SMO, he demonstrated what a Cessna looks like going backwards and what wave tops look like from 25 feet and 190 miles per hour. I recall only one minor adventure with him in my slow airplane. I got my license and airplane well after Bruce did, and I had the opportunity to show him a satellite uplink farm not far from my house. My memory of that visit is pretty fuzzy, but we did a lot more talking than flying.
I first met Bruce in New York City. He was representing the Australian Fairlight synthesizer, and the demo unit was set up at a major studio. At the time—see T-shirt coincidentally below—these products were primitive and used collections of hardware to do what a single computer chip can now do in the background. We had a nice babble about the state of the art in synthesizer design. Since we had mutual interests we got together later during his visit. I have no idea how it happened that we were both standing on a big rock in Central Park discussing electronics, but I'm certain it did. We didn't live close enough to see each other regularly, and when he moved to California our visits would be annual or less often. He lived for a while very close to the Santa Monica airport where he kept his plane. That airport has been much in the news recently for trying to restrict the flying rights of business jets. I suppose some of the people under the take-off path are whining about the whine. Needless to say, Bruce enjoyed the flight ops.
His career in audio is documented everywhere. Fairlight, Clair Brothers, Elvis, Apogee, Lake, and so on. He spent years as front-of-house sound man for that other Bruce, the one of the Springsteen persuasion. I'll just offer this one link; more are easy enough to find. He didn't tell me a lot of Elvis stories but he did shake his head a lot when the subject came up. More interesting to me was the industry gossip, and some of the fascinating projects he was working on.
Bruce was stereotypically Australian. You could almost tell without hearing the accent. Hale, tall, rugged, charismatic. And a Bruce! (At least that's the American version, derived from the movies and Monty Python.) I had occasion to go to an audio convention in Melbourne back in the '80s. He suggested I look up his mother and say hello. I called Mavis the Mom in Sydney, but she was busy, so I looked out of the hotel room window in her direction and waved. No, I don't recall if Bruce memorized The Philosphers Song. But I do remember almost collapsing with laughter (that was before we had ROTFL) when he walked into an AES convention carrying a full-sized mock sheep under his arm!
I have more stories, at least two of which I'm deliberately withholding to the extent that I won't even disclose just who will be embarrassed by them. A few others are too fuzzy or potentially conflated to satisfy the RIKLBlog penchant for honesty without research. Bruce is no longer with us, hence this remembrance. He and his Mooney crashed near Death Valley National Park last Saturday, 29 January. The audio industry has a history of losing people in this manner. My even older buddy, Sid Zimet, flew into a mountain with his wife and a rental tape transport that he was delivering. I'm sure there are others whom I don't know, and some that I know all too well, such as myself, who remain extant despite owning airplanes. Ray, Jac, be careful!
The Investigation Speculation Regulation
This being "America" there is no such regulation. Whenever a plane crash occurs, the very first thing you hear from the press and the experts they call upon is that "you shouldn't speculate on the cause of the accident until after the investigation." That, of course, is immediately before they begin to pour forth speculation after speculation. Sometimes they're right, sometimes wrong. Aircraft accidents rarely have a single cause. Usually some chain of events conspires to cause the airplane and/or occupants to meet an untimely end, and these causal chains often begin with something subtle. Occasionally, of course, it's as simply disastrous as a wing falling off. Following the non-existent regulation, I'm not going to promulgate any theories or guesses. I'm even trying not to think about what might have happened, although that effort is doomed to failure.
I read a lot of aviation magazines, all of which inevitably feature a page or so of accident reports and preliminary investigation results. If I come across any report of what happened to Bruce and his Mooney, I'll summarize it here.
UPDATE 18 February 2011: Ever so slightly more informative NTSB report.
UPDATE 23 December 2012: Quite a bit more information.