Anchorage, Alaska - June 5, 2003: USUA Advanced Flight Instructor Mike Jacober, the only man to fly an ultralight over the top of Mount McKinley, died along with student Robert Pelkay, while on a training flight near field Birchwood Airport, outside of Anchorage, Alaska. Mike was 53.

According to USUA President, Reggie Deloach, "Mike was a knowledgeable, energetic, and professional aviator. He cared for our sport, our rights as aviators, and the environment we all share. He radiated those traits so strongly one would feel both proud and somewhat awed to just talk with him. Mike was an aviator that depicted through both word and action the true reason we choose to participate in ultralight aviation. USUA, and for that matter, the entire Sport Aviation community has suffered a tremendous loss."

Photographer/journalist and fellow flyer Rob Stapleton said "once you made a simple query about flying to Mike, there was no turning back. If you talked to him about flying you were ultimately going to fly with him. He imprinted safety into everyone he met. No one else knew flying like he did. He lived life to the fullest but championed safety at every opportunity".

Bud Gish, long time friend and fellow instructor says, "There are not words enough to say about what this man has done for ultralighting. He is legendary."

Rick Huggett, USUA BFI, was flying in the same area with Mike just before the accident. "The last time I saw him he was around 600’ over our training area. I went back to the field to change students and when I returned I saw smoke and then the wreckage. We can only speculate about what happened." According to Rick, "one of the last phases of flight before moving to the airport for practice was to fly very low over the terrain to learn how the trike acts in that environment. There were no marks before or after the impact area. It was like it went straight down."

FAA Sue Gardner said, "This is a terrible tragedy and great loss to the ultralight community."

USUA Executive Vice President, Rich Pendergist said, "I only met Mike in person one time, but had talked to him recently by phone. Mike had, unselfishly, agreed to continue supporting USUA by serving on the Safety and Training Committee. He was very dedicated and enthusiastically engaged with flying ultralights. He will be remembered as one of the ultralight community’s all time greatest advocates and teachers."

Mike had flown over 8,000 hours in more than 25 years of flying.

"Calm winds west old friend", from the USUA Staff and Webmaster.


The Memorial Service For Ultralight Pilot Mike Jacober

by Jon Thornburgh

June 2003

The memorial service for renowned ultralight instructor Mike Jacober was held on June 13th at the Central Lutheran Church in Anchorage, Alaska. Mike and his student, Robert Pelkey, were killed in an ultralight accident on June 5, 2003.

Approximately 300 people attended the beautiful and moving ceremony. The service was conducted by Rev. Lance Jennings, and included eulogies and testimonials by Amanda Locke, Wendy Poss, Rob Stapleton, Mark Stella, Kurt Wein, Joel Wallace, and Mike's wife, Ginny Jacober. Piano, violin, and cello music was provided by Brooke Mueller, Erika Boheim, and Lars Hoefs.

Following the service there was a reception at the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum located on the south side of Lake Hood, at Anchorage International Airport. Six ultralight trikes made a fly-by over Lake Hood, and landed at the International Airport, the first time in history that an ultralight has operated from the Anchorage facility.

Sue Gardner, who is spearheading the FAA Sport Pilot initiative, attended the memorial service and the reception. She was accompanied by her husband, Jim Gardner, the Deputy Division Manager of the FAA Regional Office in Alaska. In order to accomplish her duties with the FAA, Mrs. Gardner must commute between Anchorage and Washington, D.C. FAA Regional Representatives Dan Billman and Tom Eldridge also attended the ceremonies.

Mike and Robert were killed while flying an Antares trike a few miles from Birchwood Airport, where Mike operated Arctic Sparrow Aircraft. Mike was last seen by fellow trike instructor Rick Huggett a few minutes before the accident. At that time Mike and Robert were flying about 150 to 200 feet above the Knik tundra, twenty miles north of Anchorage. Rick, who was also instructing, departed the area just before the accident.

The cause of the accident has not been determined. The NTSB elected not to investigate the crash, since the Antares was an ultralight and not an FAA-registered aircraft. However, the Anchorage FSDO has allocated funds for an investigation by a former NTSB official who is now with the Alaska Regional Office. The wreckage has been secured by Mike's insurance company in Wasilla, Alaska.

Initial analysis of the wreckage has determined that the Rotax 503 two-cycle engine was running at full power at the time of impact. It has also been determined that there was no structural failure of the trike or the wing. It appears that a belated attempt was made to deploy the BRS emergency parachute.

Speculation of the cause has included windshear, turbulence from gusty winds reported in the area, or physical incapacitation by Mike or his student. It is also possible that the trike was upset by the wake vortices from one of the many general aviation airplanes that regularly fly at low level above the Knik tundra.

Mike, age 53, instructed in ultralights for 25 years, and had more than 10,000 of flight time. He came into prominence when he and Joel Wallace spent a week flying in the vicinity of Mt. McKinley, also known as "Denali." From his staging point on the Kahiltna Glacier, Mike flew over the top of 20,320 foot Denali on May 5, 1993. His feat was recorded on videotape, and featured in "We Alaskans," as well as other magazines.

In order for the Rotax engine to compensate for the change in density altitude during the flight over Denali, Mike invented a manually adjustable mixture control for the Bing carburetor. The mixture control became a famous after-market product available to the ultralight community.

Arctic Sparrow Aircraft was the distributor for the Antares trike, manufactured in the Ukraine and imported into Alaska. Recently Mike and Antares founder, Sergey Zozulya, accomplished a significant milestone when they received endorsement by the FAA for a listing in the Approved Experimental Kit List. The Antares was the first, and is so far the only, trike which has obtained such approval.

Ironically, just four days before his death, Mike was featured in a two-page article in the "Outdoors & Travel" section of the Anchorage Daily News. The article highlighted Mike's lifetime devotion to light aircraft flying, and his tireless efforts to train students to fly safely. The article also mentioned the extensive assistance that Mike was devoting to the FAA's efforts to implement the new Sport Pilot initiative, which is expected to be promulgated by the FAA early next year. The article may be viewed at on the Internet at http://www.adn.com/epicks/story/3223511p-3244139c.html.

Mike was one of the few ultralight pilots to be designated by the FAA as an Aviation Safety Counselor. In another twist of irony, the FAA selected Mike for the annual Aviation Safety Award, which was offered to him posthumously on the day after his death. The award was accepted by his wife, Ginny Jacober, at a ceremony in Palmer, Alaska.

One of the first persons to arrive at the scene of the accident was Bud Gish, who is the treasurer of the Ultralight Flyers of Alaska, and who arranged for the trike fly-in at Alaska International Airport. Bud is known for his record-setting high altitude fight in a Six Chuter powered parachute. He is listed in the National Aeronautic Association's record book for his climb to 17,671 feet over Birchwood on September 9, 2000.

Bud related to me that Mike's Antares struck the ground with such tremendous force that the fuel tank exploded on impact. The resulting fire consumed the trike, and left only burned rubble, a horrible spectacle indeed. However, in the very middle of the carnage was an inexplicable sight--two white seagull feathers, completely intact and gently resting on the remains of Mike and Robert.