On a perfect Sunday morning to fly... people took off from and touched down at Northwest Regional Airport... some while grieving. Del Hester flew with Charlie Yates just a few weeks ago.
"I didn't know whether to even come fly today and then I got to thinking he'd be the first one to tell you to get out here and go do it," Hester said.
On Saturday, Yates, 63, and pilot Christopher Pratt, 41, had just taken off in a plane when it crashed in the woods south of the Roanoke airport. Pratt died at the scene. Yates died at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth.
Yates was a fixture at the small airport for the past decade.
"Everybody turned to Charlie," said Hester. "He was the lead flight instructor and just everybody did turn to him. That was Charlie."
Fellow flight instructor Brooks Higginbotham was here Saturday and said the single engine Piper Arrow Yates was in sounded strange on it's take off run.
"The acceleration was slow and when it got to a point on the runway where an airplane of that type typically takes off," said Higginbotham. "They were still firmly on the ground and they got well down the runway before they finally lifted off."
Investigators do not yet know what if anything that had to do with the plane immediately losing altitude and crashing in the woods. Pilots around here just know they've lost a friend in Charlie Yates.
"When it came to his flying he was serious but when you were on the ground checking the plane out or something he was always cutting up trying to catch you off guard," said Higginbotham.