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Family speaks on local pilot killed in Calif. plane crash

By: Sara Humphrey Email
By: Sara Humphrey Email

ARDMORE, OK - An Oklahoma pilot is dead after the plane he was flying crashed into a California mountain range.

78-year-old Oklahoma native and pilot Don Ratliff owned American King Air and did quite a bit of flying in Ardmore.

Ladonna Aycox said her father always had a passion for flying.

"I read a story that he did story with a newspaper several years ago that talked about when he was growing up on a farm near Washington, OK, this was around World War II I believe, and he would see the planes go over and dream about flying some day," Aycox said.

The pilot and businessman ferried private planes around the world.

"The United Kingdom was his last trip he had been to," Aycox said. "He has been just about everywhere in the world, Africa, you name it he's been there."

"Two weeks ago they had a little gathering and celebration of fifty years since he got his private pilots license, so he was quite proud of that," she said.

Last week, Ratliff took off from St. John's Industrial Airport in Arizona and was expected to land the single engine Beechcraft BE36 Wednesday night in San Jose, California.

"He has a lady friend there in South Carolina, the love of this life, and he always kept in contact with her on all his trips, she knew when he was supposed to call her and stuff like that," Aycox said. "It was 11 p.m. on that Wednesday night and the call didn't come."

Ian Gregor with the FAA said, "Search crews became looking for the plane Thursday and found wreckage of the destroyed aircraft Saturday afternoon in very rough snowy terrain."

Ratliff was killed in the plane crash and the cause is still under investigation.

"He always said that if for some reason he ever crashed or didn't make it, then he said 'Just remember I did everything I could do to get out of the situation and it just wasn't possible, just know I died doing what I love to do," Aycox said.

Aycox said she is planning a memorial service for her father in Washington, OK for next Saturday.


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