George Kammerer, a veteran Air Force pilot who gave flying lessons to famed test aviator William J. "Pete" Knight and flew pop musicians on tour, died Sept. 24 of heart problems and dementia, his family said. He was 89.
Mr. Kammerer took to the skies early and spent his life flying military and civilian planes. He left college to enlist in the Army Air Corps after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, earned his wings and served as a flying instructor during World War II and the Korean War.
He served in the Air Defense Command and trained pilots in many aircraft, from heavy B-17 and B-29 bombers to supersonic F-104 and F-106 fighters. His cadets included Knight, who went on to set the world's speed record for flight in a winged aircraft before becoming a conservative California legislator.
"He said he almost had to ground Pete Knight one time because he kept flying too close to the ground and tower during training," said Mr. Kammerer's son David.
Mr. Kammerer served as flight safety officer at bases in Colorado, Newfoundland and Washington state before retiring from the Air Force with the rank of major in 1963. He flew Cessna planes for a Colorado natural gas company and then went to work in 1965 for Executive Jet Aviation in Ohio flying celebrity clients, including singer John Denver and the Mamas and the Papas singing group.
"As a pilot in the 1940s and 1950s, my dad knew John Denver's father as an Air Force pilot," his son said.
Mr. Kammerer settled in the Sacramento area in 1967. He served in a civilian position at McClellan Air Force Base as chief of flight safety for 10 Western states and investigated Air Force plane crashes. He retired in 1988.
George Edward Kammerer was born in 1923 in Berwyn, Ill., and raised in suburban Chicago. He attended University of Illinois before joining the Army Air Corps in 1942.
He lived in Citrus Heights with his wife of 10 years, Sue. He previously was married for 56 years and had three sons with his first wife, Betty, who died in 1999.
Mr. Kammerer was a member of Quiet Birdmen, a private club of aviators. He flew single-engine aircraft for fun as a member of the McClellan Aero Club. "When he was not physically able to fly anymore, he used to say, 'You can take George Kammerer out of the cockpit, but you can't take the cockpit out of George Kammerer,' " his son said.
Born: Aug. 10, 1923
Died: Sept. 24, 2012
Survived by: Wife, Sue Kammerer of Citrus Heights; sons, Gregory Kammerer of Steamboat Springs, Colo., Geoffrey Kammerer of San Antonio, and David Kammerer of Pollock Pines; stepsons, Ken Moffet, Stan Moffet and Jeff Moffet, all of California; stepdaughter, Peggy Curtis of California; seven grandchildren; 12 step-grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; and two step-great-grandchildren
Services: 11 a.m. Saturday at Town and Country Lutheran Church, 4049 Marconi Ave., Sacramento
Remembrances: In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Town and Country Lutheran Church and School, or Society for the Blind.