The Mesa pilot who died when his plane crashed during a winter storm last week was a veteran air freight pilot, caught on the dangerous edge of a winter storm.
Captain David Joseph Kappes, a pilot with Ameriflight, was delivering cargo when the accident occurred.
Kappes reportedly got caught up in winter weather and told air traffic controllers he was diverting to Phoenix instead of landing in Payson due to the inclement weather.
Kappes’ plane crashed into the side of the Mazatzal Mountains about 1:30 a.m. Dec. 19. The plane left Holbrook at 5 p.m., with a planned landing in Payson, said Andrew Lotter with Ameriflight. The route is a common one for Ameriflight, a national cargo carrier based out of California, which flies the route five days a week.
Kappes, 28, had been with Ameriflight since January, having received his commercial pilots license in 2007, according to online records.
For Kappes, the job was a dream and a great start to a career in commercial aviation, Lotter said.
“This is just a tragedy,” he said. “He was a great kid.”
His parents and sister survive Kappes, who was single.
“He was well thought of, a great addition to the Phoenix base and will be extremely missed,” said Gary Richards, Ameriflight’s president in an e-mail to staff.
Kappes, a graduate of Mountain View High School, earned his bachelor’s degree in aeronautical management technology from Arizona State University. He reportedly loved the outdoors and exploring Arizona in his Jeep.
A person familiar with Ameriflight, who asked to remain anonymous, said delivering freight to rural communities is an unsung job with inherent risks.
“The young pilot tragically lost his life providing a service for Payson and other out of the way communities throughout this country flying freight,” the source said. “Payson was a recipient of his and others’ dedication to aviation and a duty to perform their jobs piloting our freight.”
A service for Kappes is planned for Saturday in the Valley.