Marvin Falitz was a friend of mine. We flew together at Northwest Airlink. We both had been in the Navy before, too. Marvin was on submarines, I was on a destroyer. One day I left a picture in his file of depth charges going off as a ship attacked a sub, and wrote "Another steel coffin goes to the bottom". He replied with a picture of a ship blowing up from a torpedo hit with one simple word: Target.
Marv had spent a lot of time in the Merchant Marine making big bucks but he got tired of seeing endless open ocean every day. So he got his flying license, built some time and got hired at Airlink. He was the only First Officer to ever show up at class in a Mercedes Benz. He got posted to Minneapolis and when winter hit his car wouldn't start. It was a diesel and the fuel had gelled. So it sat there for two months in the employee parking lot until we hit a warm day, then he traded it in on a new Lexus. And I was driving a Yugo.
One day a group of us went to the horse track. It was a beautiful summer afternoon and my first time to a horse race. We were using these scientific formulas that Eddie had to pick a horse, but Marvin just picked ones because "I knew someone with a name like that". We lost every race, but Marvin won every time. Every time! He'd collect his winnings, buy us all hot dogs and beer, and pick another horse. At the end of the day, before the final race, we gave all our remaining money to Eddie with instructions to place a big bet on this particular horse that Marvin had picked, Lucky Lindy or something. We went out to the parking lot, piled into the Lexus and picked up Eddie at the gate. "Did you make the bet?" "Yes, but I picked Snagglepuss. He had much better numbers." "What?!" Later we learned that indeed, Lucky Lindy had won, and if he'd placed that bet like we told him to we all would have made like $500 each.
One late November afternoon in 1993 Marvin called me up. "I want to go fly the B-17," he said. Some girlfriend had bought him this line control, gas powered balsa wood B-17 model. He built it and it was huge, and amazingly detailed! "Are you sure? It's pretty windy today." "Yep, it's taking up too much room in my apartment." So I met him at this church parking lot. Crystal clear blue sky, windy, cold. We set it up, it was a beauty, so much detail. I held the tail while Marvin started the engines, then he ran over and grabbed the control line. "Let it go!" he yelled. I let go and off it went. After a quarter turn it lifted off, looking exactly like an old movie scene from WW2. Beautiful! I was speechless. Then a wheel fell off so we knew this wouldn't end well. As it continued around the circle it climbed higher and higher, higher and higher. After three quarters of a turn it was directly overhead, stalled and plummeted downwards. "Look out!" I yelled. It crashed right next to Marv, not ten feet away. A million pieces of balsa wood and olive drab smashed into the ground. We stood looking at it a while, then Marvin said, "Sigh. Just as well. I didn't have room for it anymore." We took a few pictures of Marv laying next to it like it had creamed him good. Then he poured the remaining model engine fuel on the wreckage and lit it.
December 1, 1993. Marvin and Chad flew up to Hibbing in a Jetstream 31, flight 5719. The weather was night time winter lousy, with fog, icing and snow. They flew the back course approach, but when they were supposed to level off they got distracted for a moment, leveled off a few hundred feet low and hit a tall tree doing 140 mph. Took the right wing off, it rolled 190 degrees to the right and hit a slag hill moments later, killing all 19 on board instantly.The NTSB was pretty hard on Marvin, calling him abusive. But I knew Marv, and I'll always remember that smoke from the burning model rising up into the annihilating sky, like God calling him home. You're gone but not forgotten Marv, fair winds and following seas my salty friend.