At the Sunday, Aug. 7 annual meeting of the Idyllwild Area Historical Society (IAHS), the featured speaker, aviation archeologist Gary “Pat” Macha, spoke of crash sites in local mountains. Prior to Macha’s talk, Treasurer Bob Smith reported that IAHS was flying high financially on a strong course with good instrument ratings.
“We feel fortunate to be in this financial position when so many nonprofits are struggling,” said Smith. But, as IAHS President Carolyn Levitski pointed out, the society’s healthy financial position is the result of careful planning and management, and enthusiastic support from the society’s membership.
Levitski briskly highlighted the society’s significant accomplishments over the last year including completion of the Moote Archive Building, significantly increasing net assets, participation in the July Ernie Maxwell Centennial Celebration, partnership with the Garden Club in creating a native plant Community Garden on the IAHS property, and continued archiving and indexing of documents for storage in society archives.
Smith introduced Macha by remembering his own “bushwhacking up Fuller Ridge” as a young man in search of the source of a consistent gleam that turned out to be wreckage of a small plane. “Local crashes are a little known aspect of our history,” said Smith.
Featured speaker Macha spoke compellingly and emotionally about the many crashes, civilian, commercial and military in local mountains. Macha is one of about a dozen “aviation archeologists” in the country. He not only explores, identifies and catalogues previously lost aircraft, he also reunites family members with the crash sites as a way of providing closure for those family members.
“Ninety-eight percent of the local mountain crashes were weather-related,” said Macha. Some of the crash stories were emotional since they involved survivors who endured in the wilderness for sustained periods before dying. Now all aircraft are required to have emergency locater transmitters, which activate when a plane crashes.