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Friday, May 17, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Scott Spengler, seaplane pilot and 'legend'

Seattle Times staff reporter

When Clyde Carlson pulled up to his Ballard home last Friday and saw his good friend Scott Spengler flying his seaplane over his house, he didn't think much of it.

Sadly, it would be the last time he would see him.

Mr. Spengler, a Renton seaplane manager and pilot, died in a motorcycle accident Saturday morning (May 11). He was 42.

Leaving Renton for Chelan on a trip with his brother Jeffrey, Mr. Spengler lost control and was thrown from his motorcycle on West Perimeter Road, near Renton Municipal Airport. He suffered head and neck injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene, Renton police Sgt. Paul Kline said.

"He was incredibly liked by everyone," Carlson said. "He was going to be a legend. He was a legend."

Mr. Spengler was also a hero to his wife of nine years, Marsha, and children, Joshua, 5, and Ranney, 3.

"He was a devoted father," Marsha Spengler said. "He would do anything for his family."

Mr. Spengler, born in Tupper Lake, N.Y. , developed his love for flying while growing up in New York's Adirondack Park. There, he flew with his father, a general contractor, in a floatplane as he got around the expansive park. At age 15, before he could even drive, Mr. Spengler was flying by himself.

It was also in Adirondack Park where Mr. Spengler gained his love for the outdoors — camping, running and boating.

Mr. Spengler attended Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania on a basketball scholarship and graduated from Emory University.

Mr. Spengler, who didn't have any life plans, then embarked on a cross-country journey. Marsha Spengler said his trek in his "piece-of-junk Celica" came to a stop in Palm Springs, Calif., before he ran out of money.

After earning some money as a flight instructor, Mr. Spengler was again on the road and ultimately arrived in Seattle in 1983.

While visiting the Space Needle, he saw a floatplane fly by and wanted to work for its company. He promptly walked into Kenmore Air and was given a job.

The easygoing and fun-loving Mr. Spengler was so popular that before too long, passengers were requesting "that Scott Spengler guy" to fly them, Marsha Spengler said.

Soon, he became the private seaplane pilot for some of the most prominent families in Seattle and was flying them to their homes in the San Juan Islands or vacation destinations.

Mr. Spengler had logged more than 17,000 flight hours in a DeHavilland Beaver seaplane. Just before Christmas 2000, while flying with his son from Everett to Renton, he safely landed a plane at Juanita High School in Kirkland after its engine shut down. He later recounted the experience with actor Harrison Ford, a fellow seaplane pilot.

Mr. Spengler's passing will be hardest on Joshua, Marsha Spengler said.

"It's something irreplaceable I can't even tell you about," she said of their relationship. "Josh absolutely adored his dad, and the feeling was mutual."

Mr. Spengler also is survived by his parents, William and Lorraine Spengler, and brothers, Bill, Jeffrey and Gregg.

A memorial service will be at 2 p.m. today at Kirkland Seventh-day Adventist Church, 6400 108th Ave. N.E. Pilots at Renton airport, 860 W. Perimeter Road, will hold a tribute for Mr. Spengler at 3 p.m. tomorrow.

A trust in memory of Mr. Spengler has been set up by friends of the family to benefit his children. Contributions can be made to SRI Thornton, The Commerce Bank, 601 Union St., Suite 3600, Seattle, WA 98101.

J.J. Jensen can be reached at 206-464-2386 or jjensen@seattletimes.com.

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