I think I probably met Bob Reynolds in the summer of 2006. I received word over the weekend that this Vermont mountain man passed away.
Bob and I kind of came up through the ranks together. We were both taking lessons on the training hill at Morningside that summer, and the way it worked in those days, that largely meant students keeping an eye on each other. We got our H2 ratings the following summer and moved on to flying at Hanley Mountain in West Rutland, VT. Bob lived just a few miles away, and was there nearly every time I flew there in the years since. Many times I rode up that nasty road to launch in the back of his rattletrap truck. I also flew with him at Ascutney and Greylock, and I’m pretty sure I heard about him also flying Equinox and some of the Adirondack sites.
Once Bob got his H4, he was quickly appointed an Observer, and for years he’s been the go-to guy for new pilots coming out of Morningside: give Bob a call, and he’ll huck you off of Rutland. I doubt he kept count of the number of pilots who had their first mountain flight under Bob’s supervision, and I wouldn’t hazard a guess, but I’m sure it was a lot. He also put a tremendousamount of effort into the upkeep of that very important site. It’s been pretty much the only place for H2s to get airtime in New England, and when he and I were starting out, the access road was horrible. It has improved dramatically since then, in part due to Bob’s personal labor — when a spot would get bad, he’d get a load of gravel and dump it in with binder to fill in the potholes. He also did a lot of work to keep the vegetation at launch in check.
Bob was the kind of guy who, as far as I can tell, got along with everybody. I never heard him say a bad word against anyone, and his comments on people’s technique never seemed confrontational. He wasn’t a competitive-minded pilot; I don’t know that he ever did any X-C flying at all, and if he could launch and get a half-hour or an hour of airtime and then head off to his evening-shift job, he’d call it a great day. In fact, there were a number of times when he’d show up and help out, drive people up the mountain, maybe launch a new pilot, and not even fly himself. When he did fly, it would usually either be first, to show the rest of us whether it was soarable, or last, after launching everybody else. With his pink harness and bright yellow helmet, he was very easy to recognize.
We got word last year that Bob had been diagnosed with lung cancer (not from him, he wouldn’t have told us), and when I looked up the details on the particular variant that he had, the prospects did not look good, but the disease took him even sooner than expected. There are maybe a half-dozen HG and PG pilots I’ve known who have passed away, and maybe it’s evidence of the quality of the modern equipment, education, and techniques, but none of them have died in flying-related accidents.
All who pass will be missed, and Bob will be missed more than most. I’ll certainly think of him every time I visit Hanley Mountain.