Chuck Oates


Norman, Oklahoma, USA



Goodbye, PB


Paul Black was a fine man.  An electrical engineer by training and a generalist's generalist by avocation, he was a sailor, a chef, and a right-seat flyer.  He and I worked for Technical Oil Tool Company (TOTCO) in the 1980s designing hardware and software for everything from Visulogger drilling instrumentation monitors to automated blow-out preventer/controllers.  Paul brought enthusiasm, good humor, and technical expertise to any project and was a joy to work with.  His style was sometimes a source of amazement and amusement to his peers, as well as to his kids and mine.  ("Your dad's like that too?!")


Paul and Bob Noble ran out of good choices, airspeed, and altitude on the 2nd of December 2006 near Sooner Mall in Norman, about 100 yards from Max Westheimer Airport.  They avoided all the nearby buildings, traffic, and pedestrians.  They will be missed.  They will be remembered.


I often feared I'd die that way.  An engine-out emergency when approaching an airport, low and slow, leaves few choices.  Land on a busy highway, come down on a residential street through power lines, or find an empty lot and nose the plane over into it, thereby avoiding residences and businesses, but at the cost of one's own life.  I was probably spared the same fate by being broke, half-blind, and sometimes-asthmatic when I was a young fellow--and by marrying a white-knuckle flyer.  My commercial pilot's license was left gathering dust on the dresser.  Paul, on the other hand, pursued his dream.


Fly with the eagles, Paul.  I'll catch up to you in a little while.