In all likelihood, you never got to meet Jerry Smith, but if you've ever used a Stormscope, you owe him a debt of gratitude. More on that in a moment, but first the sad news is that Jerry Smith was killed in the crash of Cessna Cardinal near Mena, Arkansas this week. I learned of this tragedy when Garmin's aviation media specialist, Jessica Myers, sent an e-mail.
Jerry was one of those rare birdsa guy who had been intimately involved in light aircraft general aviation for almost his entire career. He knew everyone in the business and everyone knew him. I first met Jerry about 18 years ago when, I believe, he was still working for BF Goodrich doing development and research work on the Stormscope line, which Goodrich then owned. I had tracked him down for some detailed questions on how Stormscopes dealt with the always difficult task of determining the difference between a weak strike close in or a strong strike at great distance. Somehow or another, my questions lead to a query about how one might use the Stormscope for penetrating cells. There was a long pause and Jerry replied in that thick Arkansas drawl of his, "Well, why the heck would you want to do that?" As usual, he had a point.
After his stint at Goodrich, Jerry joined Garmin in 1994 as one of the company's first regional sales manager. He motored around the south central U.S. supporting and selling Garmin's complete line. Throughout his career, Jerry was an aircraft owner who used his airplane for work every day and he was doing that until the day he died.
At about every other trade show, I'd see Jerry in the Garmin booth and he would always take the time to find Tim Casey so the two of them could double team me with wisecracks and profoundly awful jokes. I always looked forward to it and I'll miss not having that opportunity again. We all know that nothing lasts forever, but when professional relationships are severed by the sudden violence of an airplane accident, none of us are ever really ready to adjust.
So here's a tip of the hat to Jerry Smith and the entire Garmin family. His passing will leave a gap not easily filled.