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Monday, June 9, 1997 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Jeffrey Ethell, Aviation Author, Killed In Crash Of Vintage Plane

AP

PORTLAND - Jeffrey Ethell, the author of many World War II aviation books and a television consultant, was killed in a plane crash at a gathering of veteran pilots on the Oregon Coast.

Mr. Ethell, 49, was killed about 6 p.m. Friday as he was approaching Tillamook Airport in a vintage P-38 Lightning that had been restored by owner Bruce Pruitt, a California aviation enthusiast.

"We don't know what happened," said Ken Manske, a Gresham advertising agency owner and pilot who acts as spokesman for the Tillamook Naval Air Station Museum.

"Basically, as I understand it, he (Mr. Ethell) was taking it for a spin, and he'd flown it around before," Manske said. "Bruce said, `Go ahead and take it up.' Evidently, it went down just south of the airport."

The Tillamook County sheriff's department was investigating the crash, but deputies have declined to release details.

Manske said Mr. Ethell was attending an informal meeting of World War II P-38 pilots sponsored by the museum. The distinctive twin-engine fighter was known for its speed and long-range ability to escort bombers.

Two U.S. P-38 pilots, Rex Barber and Tom Lanphier, are credited with shooting down the bomber that carried Japanese Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, the man who planned the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Barber was to have attended the meeting, Manske said.

Last October, a crash killed the director of the museum, John Matlock, and aviation writer Brian Whetstine of Springfield.

The plane was a Czech-built L-29 Delphin jet trainer, one of about 30 airplanes kept at the museum, which is based at a giant hangar that once housed U.S. Navy blimps. The fatal Oct. 11 crash occurred shortly after takeoff when the plane stalled and flipped.

Mr. Ethell had logged more than 5,000 hours of flight time in more than 215 types of military aircraft, including the Russian MiG, and was considered an expert in aviation weaponry.

According to his home page on the Internet, Mr. Ethell was the author of "Smithsonian Frontiers of Flight," a companion volume to the Discovery Channel's 13-part aviation history series of the same name.

He also served as a technical adviser and writer for the Arts & Entertainment Network's "First Flights," hosted by Neil Armstrong.

Mr. Ethell had written or co-authored a number of books on photographic collections of World War II airplanes, including "Target Berlin," "One Day in a Long War" and "Bomber Command." His biography lists a total of 59 books and more than 1,000 magazine articles.

Mr. Ethell, the son of Air Force fighter pilot Ervin C. Ethell, was born at March Air Force Base in California on Sept. 19, 1947.

He had planned to follow his father's career and attend the Air Force Academy but was disqualified when his vision did not meet Air Force standards. But in 1995, he was made an honorary member of the American Fighter Aces Association, whose pilots have scored five or more victories in combat.

Mr. Ethell is survived by his wife, Bettie, of Front Royal, Va., and three children.

Copyright (c) 1997 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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