The Paso Robles man who was the passenger in the World War II-era plane that crashed near Cal Poly on Thursday died Friday night, a hospital spokesman confirmed.
Obbie Atkinson, 86, was pronounced dead at 7 p.m., Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center spokesman Ron Yukelson said Saturday.
Atkinson was the passenger in the 1943 Aeronca model 0-58B — also called the L-3B or Grasshopper — that crashed in a creek bed on the Tartaglia Ranch about 10 a.m. Thursday.
Atkinson had been in critical condition since the crash. Pilot Jeffrey B. Welles of Newport Beach was released from the hospital later that afternoon, Yukelson said.
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The aircraft is registered to Welles and was stored at the Estrella Warbird Museum in Paso Robles.Neither Welles nor members of Atkinson’s family could be reached for comment.
Atkinson and Welles have been friends for nearly 30 years, said Betty Miller, a member of the museum’s board of directors.
Welles’ blog about the airplane shows the two often flying together.
The two were out for a “really great day of flying,” Miller said Friday.
Atkinson, 86, was a longtime member of the museum and was one of its founders in the early 1990s, she said.
A World War II Army Air Corps veteran, Atkinson flew B-29s and had thousands of hours of airtime, Miller said.
The pilot’s sister-in-law, Kathleen Welles of Morro Bay, said Jeffrey Welles left the area Friday morning and was doing “really well.”
He had some stitches above one of his eyes and arms, but did not break any bones, she said.
Atkinson had given Welles the Aeronica, which the former had been flying since 2006, according to Welles’ blog about the plane.
The plane was named Kilroy for the “Kilroy Was Here” expression popular in World War II-era graffiti depicting a bald man with a nose peering over a wall — which was painted on the aircraft’s side, only with a pilot’s cap and sunglasses.
The plane had been restored by Lewis “Bill” Purkey of Mesa, Ariz., and deemed airworthy again in 2003, according to Welles’ blog.
Built by Aeronca Aircraft Corp. of Middletown, Ohio — a company that now makes aircraft components — the U.S. Army ordered the O-58s in 1941 to test the use of light aircraft for liaison and observation missions to ground forces, according to the museum’s and the company’s websites.
Aeronca built more than 1,400 of the so-called Grasshoppers — with a cartoon logo designed by Walt Disney on company advertisements — for the Army until 1943.
Welles wrote in his blog that his plane started out as a military trainer at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City.
After various owners and uses documented in log books shown on the blog, the plane had flown 873 hours as of May 2010, which Welles described as “remarkably low time.”
In September, the plane needed what Welles described as “bypass surgery” after excess oil was found in the oil pan.
The plane needed a new piston and cylinder after broken piston rings were found, Welles wrote. Atkinson piloted the plane soon after, and it was “running great.”