BRADENTON — A local pilot who built his own planes was killed in a crash this week near Jacksonville, according to family members.
Vance L. Noles, 71, was flying from a private airport in Wimauma to Athens, Tenn., on Wednesday when his plane went down near the intersection of Interstate 10 and Interstate 75, said Noles’ son, Vance E. Noles, 39.
“I was surprised. We don’t know the details of the crash yet. It seems to have something to do with weather,” Noles said while staying at his father’s residence Saturday. “He wasn’t a risk taker when it came to flying. He built two planes. I think he loved building them as much as he loved flying them.”
Noles graduated from Manatee High School and owned Vance Noles Metal Products from 1969 to 2001.
Family members sat in the Noles’ living room Saturday with pictures of him and airplanes spread out over a coffee table. Some of their eyes were tired with dried tears.
“My dad was a pretty stoic guy. He was definitely kind of a quiet guy. He really did have a good sense of humor. When he laughed ... he got a different smile on his face. It was very contagious. He was my best friend,” Noles said.
Noles was a pilot for 42 years. He built two experimental kit airplanes in his home — a Van RV-7 and a Van RV-9.
He was flying in the RV-7 when he crashed. He had just completed the plane this year, according to family members.
When he was building the plane, he installed the engine in his garage. The plane’s panels, GPS system, panel parts and radio were stored in the house until he was ready to install them. It took him about three years to complete the plane.
His daughter, Andrea Jauschneg, who also earned her pilot’s license, said her father began flying 42 years ago. He viewed it as an enjoyable and practical way to travel for his business, which specialized in customized sheet metal for construction projects.
Brad Smith, a close friend of Noles’, used to fly with him to Oshkosh, Wis., for Experimental Aircraft Association conventions. They both built planes and belonged to EAA, Smith, 70, said.
“I think he liked to fly to see different things. He liked the peace and quiet of being in an aircraft at high altitude. He had the mechanical skills to fly an airplane. He was a builder and thinker most of his life,” Smith said.
Noles’ passion for flying was contagious. He convinced one of his in-laws top take up flying again.
“He really enjoyed flying and he enjoyed the building process. He was just an all around nice guy. I lost a very good friend,” said Jerry Greenberg, who’s daughter married Noles’ son.
Noles’ son, Vance, said he took some comfort in the fact his father died doing what he loved.
“He said many times he would not want to hang around hanging to life by a thread in a hospital room. It’s hard not getting a chance to say goodbye, but he died doing what he loved,” Noles said.
Noles spoke to his father within the past couple of weeks. They always ended their conversations by saying, “I love you.”
Funeral arrangements are being made at Brown and Sons Funeral Homes and Crematory.