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350 Mourn Pilot Killed at Air Show

Funeral: Navy Cmdr. Michael Norman, who crashed at Point Mugu, is remembered as a practical joker, part-time actor and role model.


The pilot's nickname was "Storm" and he charged through life like one, a bright-eyed, energetic force on the ground and in the sky.

More than 350 mourners packed Santa Clara Church in Oxnard on Friday to pay respects to Navy Cmdr. Michael Todd Norman, 39, one of two aviators killed April 20 when their military jet crashed at the Point Mugu Air Show and exploded before thousands of spectators.

As investigators continued their probe of the accident that killed the Camarillo father of two and his 31-year-old navigator, Marine Corps Capt. Andrew Muhs, Norman's family and friends who gathered at the church sang, sobbed and remembered.

The Rev. Jon Majarucon told mourners that pilots see each plane as "a wondrous vehicle with which to access the sky. In many ways, they see the world as God sees it.

"His flying," Majarucon said, "gave him a perspective on life that not many people have."

Norman's wife, Sylvia, 3-year-old daughter, Nicole, and 7-week-old daughter, Brooke, sat in the pews during the 90-minute service, along with the pilot's mother, brother and sister. Norman's father died earlier this year, relatives said.

A North Carolina native, Norman trained as a military pilot in Florida and Texas after graduation from Western Carolina University. After arriving at Point Mugu in 1991, he met his future wife while exercising at a local fitness center. The couple recently bought a home in Camarillo.

Over the years, Norman's deployments took him across the world, to Oman, Alaska and the Philippines. He won several commendations, including the Meritorious Service and National Defense medals.

"He was such a blessing to us, such a great role model," said his brother-in-law, Carlos Amaro of Santa Barbara.

"When I first heard about Mike eight years ago, I have to admit I was a little leery," Amaro told the mourners, laughing through his tears. "[My sister] told me this Southern guy with an accent was checking her out."

But Norman quickly won the family over. For his first meeting with his future in-laws, he had Sylvia tell her parents that Norman had just gotten a toupee and that they were not to stare at his head. In reality, there was no toupee; the hair was his. The Amaros struggled to stay quiet, but finally blurted out, "Oh, Mike, it looks so real!" Carlos Amaro recalled.

Norman left active duty in 1993 and became a commercial pilot with American Airlines, based in Los Angeles. He dabbled in acting. Relatives said he had a bit part in an episode of the TV show "JAG" and in an independent film.

As a reservist, he twice volunteered to return to active duty, first in 1997 and again last summer, for what was to be a three-year stint.

By the time the Vietnam-era fighter jet he was flying last week, a QF-4 Phantom, peeled away from formation and pitched into a marsh, Norman had logged more than 3,000 high-performance flight hours on Phantoms, Goshawks and other craft.

The cause of the crash has not been determined.

Norman liked to brag in a good-natured fashion and believed in heaven as a resting place for the virtuous, Amaro said. "I can just picture Mike running to the gates of heaven with a huge smile on his face and saying, 'Man, I am so good!'"

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