The man who died in the Oceano Dunes while flying his single-engine vintage aircraft was “a consummate pilot” with “one of the biggest hearts you’d ever want to meet,” several friends said Thursday.
Glen Philip Ray, 56, died Wednesday following the 4:05 p.m. crash. The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office released his name Thursday, and said he died as a result of sharp force trauma injuries.
Ray, a Grover Beach resident, was the registered owner of the 1946 single-engine, two-seat Luscombe 8A that he was piloting Wednesday afternoon. It’s still unknown from which airport Ray had departed and where he was headed.
Officials with the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash, with the NTSB taking the lead on the investigation. Additional information about the cause is not expected until mid-January.
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But one thing is clear: Ray loved to fly. He was the registered owner of two aircraft, the Luscombe and a 1939 single-engine Monocoupe 90A, according to an FAA registry.
Most of the photos on his Facebook profile are of planes. During his life, friends said, he flew commercial cargo planes, restored planes and took side jobs working on all types of aircraft. And he flew daily, said friend Teri Bayus, who met Ray in 1998 when she owned a mailing and shipping business on Price Street.
“I know the plane he crashed he had been working on a long time,” she said.
Bayus and friend Frank Lindsay remembered Ray’s wonderful sense of humor, his “heart of gold” and his love of bikes and beach volleyball.
For years, Ray shied away from owning a car, preferring to get around instead by bike.
For about 10 years, Ray lived on the Price Historical Park property, taking care of the grounds and ensuring that transients or curious teenagers didn’t damage the property, said Lindsay, former president of Friends of Price House.
At the same time, Ray helped homeless people living in Price Canyon fix their bikes, and in exchange they agreed to help keep an eye on the property, Lindsay said.
“We even had a Thanksgiving dinner out there for the homeless one year,” Lindsay said. “He was an amazing person who embraced everyone as being equal.”
Ray’s friends said he once worked for NASA, as a hydraulics engineer on the Space Shuttle Challenger project in the 1980s. A NASA spokesman said the agency doesn’t have readily available records to verify Ray’s work history.
Lindsay said Ray also served in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Ray’s Facebook profile describes him as an “aerospace engineer, aerospace technologist, commercial heavy multiengine pilot, human power advocate, beach volleyball fanatic, luscombe lunatic, blue water sloop racing, and lover of life.”
“He was a Renaissance man,” Bayus said.
More recently, Ray had gone to the Santa Rosa area to care for his father, who was ill. He returned to San Luis Obispo County after his father died.
Ray is survived by a son, who lives in Northern California. Friends are planning to hold a service locally within the next week or two.
In the meantime, the NTSB will continue its work, with air safety investigator Howard Plagens studying the accident scene. Plagens will secure the scene, preserve any perishable evidence, collect all electronic devices and visually document the crash scene, said Eric Weiss, a NTSB spokesman.
A preliminary report will be filed 10 business days after the incident on the NTSB website, but determining the likely cause of the plane crash could take more than a year, he said.
After the initial report is complete, a more extensive examination is done on the “man, the machine and the environment,” Weiss said. At the end, a clear picture of what exactly happened from when the flight took off to when it ended will emerge.
Though it’s still unknown where Ray planned to land, the aircraft was pointing toward the Oceano County Airport, said Craig Angello, whose family owns Angello’s ATV Rentals.
Angello is also a captain with the Five Cities Fire Authority but was not on duty when he heard information about the crash on a police scanner.
He responded to see whether he could help. By the time he arrived, State Parks rangers were on scene and performing CPR, he said. Firefighters with the Five Cities Fire Authority also responded.
Angello walked around the plane to make sure it wasn’t a fire hazard. He noticed the battery was about 50 to 60 feet from the wreckage. The aircraft itself “was completely destroyed, folded in half essentially,” he said.