Family speaking out about pilot who died in Roanoke crash




Posted on September 23, 2012 at 6:51 PM

Updated Monday, Sep 24 at 12:14 PM

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GRAPEVINE — The family of a flight instructor who was one of two men killed in a plane crash near Roanoke is speaking out abut Saturday's tragedy.

Charlie Yates and Chris Pratt were killed when their plane went down shortly after taking off from Northwest Regional Airport.

Yates, 63, was a decorated and experienced pilot who had a 20-year career in the U.S. Air Force — including duty in the Vietnam War— and a second career as a Delta Air Lines captain.

More recently, he served as a flight instructor, and that's what he was doing on Saturday in Pratt's Piper Arrow single-engine aircraft.

At the family's Grapevine home, Diane Yates said her husband had been working with Pratt for the past week or so. Yates told her that Pratt had the fundamentals down and knew what he was doing.

Smedley Yates remembers his dad always flying. "He was a hero — not only in the Vietnam War, where he flew OV-10s — but in the cold war, where he flew F-15 Eagles," he said.

It was in the genes.

Charlie Yates flew, as did his father and son. It was a family passion.

"We used to own a plane when we lived in Alaska, and we used to land on the beaches and go fishing," Diane Yates recalled. They were married for 42 years.

It was a lifetime spent in the sky. Yates' 20 years of flight in the Air Force is chronicled in a book he wrote.

Yates also loved teaching others how to soar on their own. "He would let me pretty much do what I wanted with the plane," Mrs. Yates said.

But on Saturday afternoon, Diane Yates got the call every pilot's wife prays to never receive. When information was hard to come by, she suspected he had died.

Charlie Yates was taking off in Christopher Pratt's Piper Arrow single-engine aircraft. They lost altitude at takeoff and crashed a half-mile from the south end of the runway at Northwest Regional Airport in Denton County.

Pratt, a nuclear engineer and father of two little girls, was working toward becoming a flight instructor like Charlie.

Pratt's family said Yates was helping him "brush up." Pratt leaves a wife and two young daughters.

"Whether he was at the controls, whether someone else was at he controls... God is in control," Smedley Yates said, underscoring the importance of faith in the Yates household.

"He was my best friend. I knew he needed me, and I needed him," Diane Yates said.

Charlie Yates was said to have had three passions in life: His family; flying; and studying Scripture.

He had been scheduled to teach at an assisted living facility on Sunday. His topic: "Heaven."

In addition to his wife, Yates leaves an adult son, a daughter, and seven grandchildren.