Fatality from Sandy Valley crash identified as LV pilot

<b>CORRECTION:</b> This story in Wednesday's Review-Journal misstated the day for the memorial service for Greg Jaspers, the retired Air Force pilot killed in a plane crash Sunday near Sandy Valley. The service will be 3 p.m. Friday at Nellis Air Force Base in the Red Flag auditorium. It is open to members of the public who have clearance to enter the base.

If Greg Jaspers was doing anything, it would be spending time with his family, fly fishing or flying.

The 52-year-old died in an air crash Sunday after more than 30 years as an Air Force test pilot.

Jaspers was the pilot and only person on board an experimental plane that crashed near Sandy Valley.

He was flying a Bonde TF-51D, a plane built from a kit in 2003 that he had purchased about two weeks ago from the builder, Robert L. Bonde. The plane, a Thunder Mustang, is similar to but smaller than the P-51 Mustang, a World War II workhorse.

Sources familiar with crash said Jaspers had taken off from a private airstrip at Sandy Valley, a community about 40 miles southwest of Las Vegas.

He had been communicating with someone on the ground with a hand-held radio about a landing gear malfunction. While attempting to fix the problem the plane slowed down at about 400 feet altitude, stalled and went into a spin.

Linda de France, Jaspers' fiancee, said he retired from the Air Force two years ago. Jaspers was instructed by Neil Armstrong while studying aerospace engineering and was touched by one of the famed astronaut's quotes.

"He once said 'Pilots take no special joy in walking. Pilots like flying,' " de France said through tears in a phone interview. "That's how (Greg) lived his life."

The pair lived in Las Vegas with their five dogs. He is survived by his son, Robert, 27.

A memorial service is planned for 3 p.m. today Friday at the Nellis Air Force Base auditorium.

"He was my world and my heart," de France said. "The love of my life and my soulmate."

Jaspers held the highest certificate offered by the Federal Aviation Administration, rated as a multi-engine airline transport pilot. He had commercial privileges for helicopters and was certified to take off and land single engine airplanes on sea and land, according to the FAA registry of airmen.

Former Air Force sources and a fellow civilian pilot who knew him said he had flown a variety of warplanes, including the F-117A Nighthawk stealth jet and the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

Jaspers, a retired colonel, had commanded the 410th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The unit of test pilots laid the foundation for flying the Nighthawk, or so-called "black jet," that in its early days dating back to 1980, had operated out of the secret installation along the dry Groom Lake bed, known as Area 51.

He went through test pilot school at Edwards and started his Air Force career in the ROTC program.

"He flew just about everything in the Air Force inventory," said one of the sources.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash. A final report on the cause is expected in about six months.