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Crews discover missing pilot, plane

Richard E. Nims took off from the Apex Airpark, two miles northwest of Silverdale, in a single-engine airplane on Nov. 17.

Six days later, one of his relatives reported him missing.

A K-9 search team found the plane’s wreckage with the 74-year-old pilot’s body inside, on a remote hillside near the Casad Dam in the Bremerton Watershed and Reservoir System, at 11:25 a.m. on Nov. 26.

Authorities don’t yet know why the plane crashed.

Nims may have accidentally crashed due to lack of recent piloting experience, said Bob Packett, a pilot who rented a tie-down spot to Nims at the airport.

“Basically, he hadn’t flown in a very long time, said Packett. “His inexperience showed, frankly.

“He wasn’t ready to stretch yet. He wasn’t comfortable with the plane yet,” Packett said. “He was very much at the level of a novice student.”

Once, Packett suggested that Nims fly up to Jefferson County, and Nims replied that he didn’t want to go to new airports until he felt more confident about landing his plane.

“I know he wasn’t comfortable taking off on his own and flying,” Packett said.

But Judith Young, one of Nims’ sisters, felt confident that lack of recent experience didn’t contribute to the crash.

Her brother started flying planes as a 10-year-old, she said.

He spent a total of 21 years flying 727 air planes for Eastern Airlines, where he was a first officer, and he also flew helicopters in Vietnam.

“It’s been about 30 or 40 years since (he piloted a plane), but I feel like flying a plane is flying a plane,” said Young, implying it's a skill one would not quickly forget.

But Young and Packett ruled out several other possible causes for the crash.

For example, neither think mechanical difficulties caused the plane to go down.

“Dick bought the plane in October,” she said. “It had about 100 hours on it. It had been in a hanger its whole life.”

Packett said the same.

He described the 2004 Citabria Scout, as “beautiful” and “practically brand new.”

It had extended wings and an 180 horsepower motor, which is a lot of power considering the plane could fly on 60.

“It will climb really well and would be a particluarly good short take-off and lander,” he said, although “it was a tail dragger, so it was a little harder to fly in the landing mode.”

And Packett felt confident Nims planned to return to the airport after just a short plane ride, since he’d just bought new home furnishings and left them in the back of his dark blue Kenworth semi-tractor in the airport parking lot.

“The tractor’s sitting here,” he said. “It had three boxes with furnature on it, including a bed he was planning to take home.”

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