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Brothers' First Flight Together Ends in Tragic Deaths of Both

May 02, 1985|THERESA WALKER | Times Staff Writer

Just a few hours before Scott Potter was to take his first ride in an airplane piloted by his brother Bob, he called his mother in Chicago to wish her a happy birthday.

After congratulating his mother for reaching 65 years, Scott said hello to his father and joked about not surviving the trip the brothers would be making that night from Burbank to Agua Dulce in the Antelope Valley. Scott was to be Bob's first passenger since receiving his pilot's license six days earlier.

Twenty-four hours later, another brother, Bill, identified the bodies of Scott and Bob, who died instantly when their plane crashed April 21 in the mountains above La Crescenta.

Bill Potter, who lives in Saugus, recalled the conversation he had with his father when he delivered the news of his brothers' deaths: "One of the first things my dad said to me was . . . that Scott told him if he never heard from him again to know that Bob had crashed the airplane and killed them both."

Memorial Service Set

After a memorial service to be held Saturday at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, the two brothers' cremated remains will be flown to the Chicago suburb of Flossmoor where they grew up with their brother Bill and sister Barbara. There, a second memorial service will be held for Bob, 31, of Glendale, and Scott, 23, of Van Nuys, the oldest and youngest sons of Alton and Pearl Potter.

Neither brother was married or had children.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash to determine what caused the rented Cessna 152 to slam into the base of Tujunga Mountain near Gold Creek Road, only eight miles from the brothers' starting point at the Burbank Airport. The investigation should take about 60 days, according to Jeff Rich, air safety investigator.

Rich said he will be taking a close look at the weather conditions when the plane crashed. Dense fog prevented rescuers from reaching the site of the wreckage until the day after the crash. Bob Potter's view may have been affected by the weather, but Rich said he would not be able to determine that until he has gathered data from the National Weather Service.

There is no official weather station in the immediate area of the accident and Rich said he would have to piece together information from several nearby stations, including the closest one at the Burbank Airport. That weather station reported overcast and low visibility 1,000 feet lower than the 4,850-foot elevation of the crash site.

Rich said that, if the tops of the clouds were higher in the area of the crash, "then the accident site could have been obscured in clouds. But we don't know that yet."

Inspection of Aircraft

The investigation also will include routine inspection of the aircraft to see if mechanical failure caused the accident. Rich said he will also question the pilot examiner who conducted Bob Potter's flight tests and issued his pilot's certification. "Anytime an accident occurs where a pilot has been certified for less than two years we look at that aspect," Rich said.

Bill Potter said his brother's flight instructor described Bob as a cautious pilot who knew what he was doing. Still, Potter said he and his wife had no desire to go up in a plane with Bob at the controls.

"Bob was such a horrendous driver in a car, we told him we would never go flying with him," he said. "But it's not that we felt that Bob was going to do this to himself."

Bill Potter described his brother as an avid aviation enthusiast who took up sky diving in college and had a few flying lessons in Chicago before moving to California three years ago. Bob was an introvert who "read every book on aviation, every magazine," but wasn't able to afford more flying lessons until last year when the personnel placement service he ran with a partner turned him into a successful "yuppie," his brother said.

Scott Potter was also a bright, young man, his brother said, who came to California last October and landed a well-paying position as an assistant controller for a Santa Monica mortgage firm. Scott, however, was not the aviation fan that Bob was.

His flight with Bob was the first time he had been in the air with the exception of a commercial flight.

"Scott just loved my brother; that's the only reason why he was in the airplane," Bill Potter said. "He had a friend with a hot-air balloon and he was even averse to going up in that."

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