Building model planes and working on real ones comprised Gary Stockdale's passion, filling the family's basement with models in his youth, jumping into aviation as a career at age 16 — and later working at two Detroit area airports.
The 51-year-old Stockdale also knew the dangers of flying, his older brother told The Associated Press Tuesday.
"He always said it was dangerous," said Glenn Stockdale, 55. "He would always say 'you either will die in a car crash or a ball of flame in a plane.'"
Gary Stockdale was one of seven Americans killed when their National Air Cargo plane crashed Monday near an Air Force base in Afghanistan.
Six of the victims were from Michigan and a seventh was from Kentucky, said Shirley Kaufman, National Air Cargo vice president.
Those killed include pilots Brad Hasler of Trenton, Mich. and Jeremy Lipka of Brooklyn, Mich.; first officers Jamie Brokaw of Monroe, Mich. and Rinku Summan of Canton, Mich.; loadmaster Michael Sheets of Ypsilanti, Mich.; and maintenance crewman Timothy Garrett of Louisville, Ky.
As loadmaster, Sheets was responsible for making sure the weight and balance of the cargo was appropriate.
The Dubai-bound Boeing 747-400 — operated by National Air Cargo — crashed just after takeoff Monday from Bagram Air Base around 11:20 a.m. local time, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a statement Tuesday.
The accident site is within the perimeter of Bagram Air Base.
The Taliban quickly claimed responsibility for downing the plane, but NATO said later the claims were false, and there was no sign of insurgent activity in the area at the time of the crash.
The Afghanistan Ministry of Transportation and Commercial Aviation is leading the investigation. The NTSB is investigating the crash alongside the ministry. The team will be composed of three NTSB investigators, as well as representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing, the NTSB said.
Kaufman said the plane — owned by National Airlines, an Orlando, Florida-based subsidiary of National Air Cargo — was carrying vehicles and other cargo.
Chris Connerton met Brokaw at a flight school in Jacksonville, Fla., and described him as one of his closest friends and an experienced navigator who performed well under pressure.
"He was a very good person and very smart person," Connerton told the AP Tuesday by telephone from Rochester, Minn.
Connerton credited Brokaw with helping get him through flight school, as well as a harrowing flight two years ago from Toledo, Ohio, to an international flight expo in Lakeland, Fla. Connerton said ice had built up on the plane to the point that he could no longer get it to climb.
"If it wasn't for Jamie's navigation and know-how ... we wouldn't have made it," Connerton said. "I don't know that I would have had the capacity to handle the situation on my own."
Elena Garrett of Jeffersonville, Ind., just across the Ohio River from Louisville, said ex-husband Timothy Garrett would have turned 52 on Saturday. They have two daughters together, ages 11 and 12.
"We're all devastated," Elena Garrett said about his death. "We were still best friends. He's the best father I've ever seen (and) ready to help anybody. He would give the shirt off his back for anybody."
Bill Hasler said in a statement Tuesday that his family learned Monday morning that his brother, Brad, was one of the crash victims.
"Brad was a wonderful father to two young children, a beloved husband to a wife who is expecting another child, a loving son, and the most loyal and supportive brother I could have ever asked for," Bill Hasler said. "His influence in the lives of all of us who loved him is immeasurable, and our grief is indescribable."
National Airlines was based until recently at Michigan's Willow Run Airport, west of Detroit. It carries cargo both commercially and for the military, Kaufman said. She said the company employs about 225 people.
Summan had worked two-and-a-half years for National Air Cargo, said his wife, Rajnit Summan.
Rajnit Summan added she last spoke to her husband Sunday.
"I told him to be safe," she said.
Joan Lowy reported from Washington. Associated Press writers David N. Goodman in Detroit and Elizabeth Campbell in Louisville, Ky., contributed to this report.