Pemberton mourns loss of aviation leader 

Glider pilot and tourism company owner passes away in fatal aviation crash

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Pemberton was shocked to learn on Saturday, June 29 that a leader in the aviation community lost his life in a midair crash over Nairn Falls Provincial Park.

News of the death of Rudy Rozsypalek spread quickly through Pemberton despite the fact that the RCMP withheld the identities of the people killed in the tragic Canada Day weekend accident.

In addition to his love of flight, Rozsypalek enjoyed spending time outdoors in the mountains in all seasons. He lost his life showing a visitor from India the magnificent sights around Pemberton.

Rozsypalek was a family man who left behind a wife and two boys.

Nigel Protter described Rozsypalek as one of his best friends. They met in 1993, shortly after a glider and a tent appeared at the Pemberton Airport.

Rozsypalek grew up in the Czech republic and learned to fly gliders in a communist military program in the '80s. He booked a vacation to Cuba that stopped in Montreal and filed for asylum when he arrived. He made his way out to Hope where he got involved in a glider program and came up to Pemberton in 1993.

"One day a tent popped up and a sign advertising glider rides," said Protter. "I had an airplane there and Eric Pehota had a little Cessna and was just learning to fly it when this tent popped up. And I was Rudy's first customer. I said 'Count me in' and he took me for a flight."

Before long Protter and Pehota were towing Rudy and his clients into the sky, something they did for free while earning experience. Protter also became a glider pilot and did tours as well. Sometimes he even got paid for them, though mostly irt was for the experience.

"Rudy was a very patient instructor and mentor, he was so good and so strict and so serious and disciplined around flying," said Protter. "Over the years many, many young people starting out as pilots went to work with Rudy because he had this reputation. It was an amazing opportunity to fly, and you learned amazing things towing gliders — you really learned to fly an airplane."

Protter said Rozsypalek was a perfectionist in the air. "Of all the hundreds of tows I flew for Rudy, I think I was criticized for well over half of them, as was every pilot, because he was so strict. You wouldn't get away with even the slightest deviation of procedure... but rather than resent it, we loved it.

"He was just a fun-loving, optimistic guy, as well as a strict, professional and talented pilot. He just knew the winds, he knew the weather and the lifts so well."

Percy Abraham said he met Rozsypalek in about 1995 and they got to know each other through their children, who are the same age. According to Abraham, his friend was funny, friendly, helpful and a super solid guy.

"He was well known and well loved," said Abraham.

Jim Orava described Rozsypalek as humble, compassionate and honest.

"He started with nothing," said Orava.

He noted that Rozsypalek was very handy. For example Orava said his friend had carpentry skills and he was a good mechanic as well.

As of Pique's editorial deadline, a date hadn't been set for Rozsypalek's memorial service. Check online for updates.

With files from Andrew Mitchell

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