In Memory of Dave Grubert, N4177

On Monday afternoon, February 24, 2003 Mite owner Dave Grubert, 72, of Tacoma and his brother-in-law, Roy Huntington, 64, of Milton died when Dave’s homebuilt two-seater KIS crashed shortly after takeoff from Thun Field (Pierce County Airport) in Washington State.

Witnesses heard the engine sputter and watched the plane bank hard over an elementary school. It crashed and burned in the back yard of a home in a quiet residential area of Puyallup, WA. The FAA has not yet determined the cause of the crash.

Dave and Gil Gilbert of Kent, WA used to fly in their Mooney M-18s together. Gil remembers:

"I first met Dave in 1974. I was buying some spruce at Sparcraft in Tacoma and was told Dave was building a Mite from drawings he had bought. I wanted to see his set of drawings because I needed to build a vertical and horizontal tail. Dave built the Mite landing gear and all, but never really finished it.

"Then, in 1978 or 1979, I flew to Thun for some reason and up walked Dave. He had flown in with a Stitts that he had built in the late ‘60s. We talked about Mites. Earlier, I had looked at a Mite near Ballston, Oregon that Dan Beltrami had told me about. It was a mess. I told Dave about the Mite and it wasn't long before we were driving to Oregon to haul it back to Tacoma. In about a year he had N4177 flying, new wing and all.

"I don't know how many times we flew to the Columbia and Porterville, California fly-ins. It was a bunch, in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s. On one of the trips to Porterville, he flew down to the KISS factory to take a look and ended up buying a kit. It wasn't long before Dave had the KISS flying. That was about the time I got involved with the Arrow and put my Mite in storage, so that must have been about 1994. I don't know the status of his Mite."

Glenn Bell of Hillsboro, Oregon has known Dave Grubert for fifteen years. Here is what he told us:

"Dave was a genuinely colorful aviation enthusiast. He always brightened up the Mite fly-ins. I haven't a clue what condition his Mite is in. It was apart, the last I heard, but that was a long time ago. I flew it once and it's a real sweet flying Mite. I came across some long lost Mite photos. I have some of Dave's Mite as he first found it. A derelict….

I called Dave one morning and told him that I was going to Packwood for breakfast. He said he was too busy to make it. So I flew up to Packwood by myself and a little while later this other Mite comes swooping in. It was Dave's son. He had recently been furloughed by an airline in Alaska and he had plenty of time!"

Taken at the WAMM fly-in at Columbia, CA in 1990. Standing: Ken Smith, Dave Grubert, Ben Favrholdt, Karen Andrews, Michael Harms, Glenn Bell. Front: Tony Terrigno, Gil Gilbert, Dan Beltrami.

Three Mites at Elma, WA: Glenn Bell's N4181, Dave Grubert's N4177 and Gil Gilbert's N4121.

Dave Grubert's N4177 is an M-18C-55, serial number 342.

This is N4177 when it was owned by George Morgan of Ballston, Oregon in the late '70s. The Mite was in an open barn covered in dust. It was very stock and had the original fabric & paint.

Ben Favrholdt of Porterville, CA also knew Dave from the WAMM fly-ins in California:

"Some more thoughts about Dave Grubert.... In my opinion, he was a straight shooter, a very direct person, 'a diamond in the rough'. I remember at one of the Columbia fly-ins we were talking about going to a Mexican restaurant, and Dave said: " I am an AMERICAN, and I am not eating any of that foreign crap". We all got a chuckle out of that. He was the kind of person that you instantly liked. He will be sorely missed and never forgotten."

On behalf of the Mite Community, we express our sincerest sympathy to Dave’s wife Ione and family.

Photos courtesy of Glenn Bell.

Our thanks to Jeff Barker of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for details on the crash.