August 10, 2010
Theron "Terry" Smith, a lifelong Alaska pilot, died in the Monday night plane crash that also claimed the life of former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens and three others.
Several sources close to the family confirmed Tuesday that Smith died piloting the DeHavilland DC-3 Otter that went down near Dillingham. Smith had a long career in Alaska aviation, including a post as Alaska Airline's chief pilot in the state.
"He was extremely revered," said Jim Bridwell, a colleague and close friend of Smith's. "He was well-liked; a pilot's pilot."
Bridwell said Smith's death is especially devastating because Smith's son-in-law, Aaron Malone, was killed less than two weeks ago in a C-17 crash at Elmendorf Air Force Base. According to his obituary, Malone met Melanie Smith, Terry Smith's daughter, while taking classes at the University of Alaska Anchorage. The July 28 crash killed three other airmen.
Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Bobbie Egan sent the following statement on behalf of the company, which employed Smith for nearly three decades:
Terry Smith had many close friends and colleagues at Alaska Airlines who will miss him dearly, and we extend our heartfelt sympathies to Terry's family and loved ones. Captain Terry Smith retired from Alaska Airlines in 2007 after a 28-year career during which he served as chief pilot of our Anchorage base. Smith also flew as captain on two historic flights across the Bering Sea in the late 1980s that laid the groundwork for Alaska Airlines to offer the first U.S.-scheduled service to the Russian Far East in 1991. The Boeing 737-200 used on those flights bears Smith's name and is now on exhibit at the Alaska Aviation Museum in Anchorage.
Rogoff described Smith as the "most skillful aviator imaginable."
"The fact there were four survivors is testament to his skills," she added. "He would have maneuvered that plane like no other mere pilot to save lives."
Rogoff said Smith was "totally cautious" when it came to flying in inclement weather.
"There was no weather he hadn't experienced, so (he) would not have been flummoxed by it," she said. Smith was flying the GCI plane this week "just as a friend," Rogoff said; Smith's wife, Terri, thought the trip would be a "healthy diversion" after the death of the Smiths' son-in-law.