Thursday, March 18, 2010

In Loving Memory.... Al Goss

The Warbird and Air Racing Communities lost a great friend this week. Al Goss was flying his beloved T-6, Warlock with his crew chief, Steve Ballard, on Wednesday morning when tragedy struck.

The story started in 1981, when Al decided to make the trek over the hills to the National Championship Air Races. Twenty-nine years later, he was the favorite of both fans and racers alike.

A crop duster by day, his real passion was Warlock and the people who surrounded him and supported him while he raced the pylons at Reno. He had two sons, Randy and David; a daughter, Sandra; and five grandchildren; but he adopted the rest of us and made everyone feel like family.

He finished 2nd in the Gold six times, or as he would say, "the first loser". But, he won it all in 2004. Walking away with the title National Champion after all those years meant quite a bit to him. Regardless of win or lose, his devoted fans loved him.

The Warlock Crew would show up every year and work from dawn to dusk. They polished that airplane, mingled with the crowds and watched with great interest all of the races over the many days. Photographers were welcomed and would be found huddled on top of the Warlock trailer with their camera equipment trying to get the best pictures.

I always wondered how he managed to assemble such an amazing array of people. He was magnetic in that way. Still, he always seemed to give much more than he received, although, I'm sure he would disagree.

The big bash every year was the Warlock Party. It happened on Wednesday night as a way to celebrate the beginning of the races. There was always a band, dancing, singing and friendship being passed around the ramp. Everyone was there and Al knew all of them.

From a pilot’s standpoint, he did it all. He flew for a living, and lived for his flying. When an airshow needed him, he was there. When a friend was in need, they knew they could call him anytime. He was the hardest working and the kindest man I have ever known.

I met Al in 2004, my first year racing in the Biplane Class. He was a mentor and a friend to me. After every race, I would get debriefed by him. If I did well, it was a big hug and if I made mistakes, he would shake his head and share with me his insight.

I felt as though I was the luckiest pilot in the world to have this great man take such a personal interest in me and my flying. But, he did that to so many of us. From the phone calls I have received since the news went out, everyone was touched by him. Every interaction made people feel special. He remembered wives’ and childrens' names, details of everyone’s life and showed deep concern and compassion towards all of us.

In addition to his children and grandchildren, Al had a special friend in Anita. They were inseparable and just about the most adorable couple you’d ever meet. They would dance together at the Warlock Party and everyone would stop and watch them. As loving and amiable as Al was, Anita just multiplied the affection.

His passenger on that day was Steven Ballard, a long time friend, Fed-ex pilot and flight instructor. Steve was also a fixture at the Air Races as part of the Warlock Crew each year.

This year was to be Al’s 30th Anniversary racing at Reno. I know Team Ruby will put together a special memorial to our mentor this year and it's likely other teams will do the same.

But for many of us, without Al, Warlock and the team, the races will never be the same.

At this time, no public memorial has been planned. When details become available, we will share them with you. Until then, please keep the Goss and Warlock families in your hearts. For we have all suffered a great loss.

Blue skies and tailwinds forever, my dear friend, I will always love you and remember your kindness.

Marilyn Dash
Ruby Red Racing

Photocredits: Victor Archer, Rob "Phred" Miller, Tim Adams and Marilyn Dash


Anonymous said...

I worked for the JG Boswell Company in Kern County where Al crop dusted every single field of cotton and tomatoes I looked after. Al was a kindred spirit and it was a true blessing to have come to know Al. He was always there when I needed him and it was always fun watching him fly those planes with true precision and accuracy. My deepest thoughts and prayers go out to his family. It is comforting to know that Al will always being flying these green fields under blue skies.

Kelly K. said...

The air races will never be the same without that "Quick Son of A Witch". His will be remembered fondly and greatly missed, by anyone who ever met him. I always looked forward to the Reno Air Races cause I knew I'd get to see the Warlock crew and buy some goodies. Al always made me feel welcome and Anita was such a joy to visit with as she showed me the latest and greatest Warlock gear. Which I wear with pride. My heart goes out to her and the rest of his family. The races will go on, but we'll all feel the difference....
"You left us much to soon Al, but you were doing what you loved...and now you'll be forever flying in the great blue skies above."

warbirdfotos said...

So saddened by the loss of this fine man. He and the whole crew made us feel "involved" with the sport of air racing, doesnt matter what class you follow or in what capacity you participate, Al and Warlock is what one might describe as the definition of the sport. Always welcomed me as though i belonged, My heart is still heavy, Reno has now changed, God Bless Anita and Randy and the rest of those who are in pain over this great loss.

Blue Skies Forever Al

Thanks Dasher


Anonymous said...

Ever since I was a little kid I've been into airplanes especially the old war birds and I alwasy dreamed of getting close to one someday. When I was 12 years old my dreams came true when I went to the Reno Air Races for the first time with Al. My stepfather worked with him at Bob's flying service, he was in to ham radios and Al asked him to do some radio work for him at the races. Al and Warlock were my heros the sound the excitement all of it was wonderful! Al was always very kind and always treated us as if we were special. My mother and I have been attending the races ever since and I am now 40. I took my son to the races last year and he got to meet Al for the first time and of course Al again was very kind and took my son into the pits with him and took pictures next to Warlock. Little did I know that that would be the last time I would see Al or Warlock and I am greatful for one picture of my son along side one of my heros!! Things will never be the same Al and we will miss you greatly! Randy, David and Sandra our thoughts and prayers are with you! Fly low and fly fast Al and thank you for all of the wonderful memories!! - Art Ross and familly

David Donahue said...

I was also one of the luck ones to have been able to spend an beautiful saturday with Al, Anita, and several of the Warlock crew. It is all true what has been said about Al, he shared his passion with the world and was a joy to be around. My thoughts and prayers are with Anita, his family, and the entire Warlock crew. You will be greatly missed Al!

God Speed!

David Donahue

P.S. Here is a posting I copied regarding the memorial services:

The family is announcing the Memorial will be held on Saturday, April 10th
at Shafter, at noon. It will be in Tiger's or Eddie Van Fossen's hangar.
More information will be forthcoming.

Dasher said...

The Memorial is set for noon, April 10th at Shafter Minter Field in the Van Fossen hangar. If unfamiliar with the airport, look for the line of Warbirds and loved ones.