He was said to be a fixture at the Tehachapi Airport, a top-notch aircraft mechanic and flight instructor known to many and beloved for his work there as well as his volunteerism at St. Malachy Church.
Friends were hoping against hope that there was a chance that Gordon Davis, 63, would survive the crash of his Cessna 172 on a rugged Wyoming mountaintop on Sunday, March 3, but that was not to be.
Carbon County Coroner Paul Zamora released his findings Friday on the cause of death of pilot Gordon Davis.
“Mr. Davis died due to expose to extreme cold temperature. Trauma was also a factor,” Zamora wrote in his official verdict.
Dr. Pat Allen of McKee Medical Center in Loveland, Colo., conducted the autopsy.
Helicopter and rescue crews reported Davis had survived a plane crash near Saratoga, about 45 miles south east of Rawlins in the south central part of Wyoming, but was found dead at the scene last Tuesday.
Davis’ date of death was given as March 3, in the report, the day of the crash, but Zamora said his actual time of death could not be determined.
Among those waiting for word in Tehachapi last week was Marty Feehan, a friend of Davis and his wife Georgia.
Feehan said he went to Davis when he wanted to get back into flying some years ago and made an instant connection.
He said Davis trained lots of pilots and that his friendship went beyond flight training.
"He's mentored more young men in this community than most," he said, including some who have gone on to become military pilots.
"You couldn't count the people whose lives he has touched," Feehan continued. "He has left a great legacy."
Davis knew the rugged Wyoming area where his plane went down, Feehan said, having made many flights through there to visit his father in Laramie.
According to a report in the Rawlins Times in Rawlins, Wyo., Davis left the Bryce Canyon, Utah, airport Sunday morning, bound for Laramie. He never made it. Instead, at about 5:30 p.m. on March 3, Carbon County Sheriff Jerry Colson received a call from the U.S. Air Force that an emergency locating transmitter from Davis' plane had been activated, indicating the plane had crashed.
A search ensued with efforts continuing until his plane was found at about 11 a.m. last Tuesday on the southeast side of Pennock Mountain in a deep canyon about two-thirds of the way up its side.
The Cessna’s wreckage was located by a helicopter flying out of Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colo.
Rappelling down to the accident site from the chopper, the military medic aboard determined Davis was dead — but his body was not in the airplane.
Davis had survived the crash, according to both the helicopter crew and the search team that recovered his remains. He died under his own wing, where he had sought shelter.
Searchers used snowmobiles, four-wheel-drive all-terrain vehicles and hand-held radio receivers, hoping to track the signal.
A fixed-wing plane and a helicopter were initially deployed, but had to turn back due to high winds. The eyes in the sky returned Tuesday, eventually locating Davis and the wreckage of his aircraft.
“It’s a very perilous area,” Sheriff Colson said.
"He was a super nice guy," said local pilot Ken Hetge. "He was always very professional in what he did. He has been around the airport forever. He was a true fixture here. We're going to miss him."
Tim Cahoon agreed. "Gordon built my plane," he said. "He is one of the best mechanics I've every known."
Davis owned and operated Mountain Hawk Aviation in Tehachapi. His experience as a pilot includes nine years with the USAF and as a crash-recovery and investigation team member with the military. He had more than 35 years in aviation.
Information about funeral services will be published when it becomes available.