Ocala pilot killed in aircraft accident


Published: Wednesday, January 28, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 28, 2004 at 1:29 a.m.
OCALA - Like most mornings, Arthur R. "Dick" Branner woke up at 5:30 a.m. and exercised.
Branner and his wife, Patricia, went to church, and on their way home, stopped at Home Depot. Dick Branner was eager to get home before noon because he wanted to go flying. Weather forecasters had predicted a pleasant day.
"I remember I kept touching him a lot in church and in the car. We discussed how blessed we are," said Patricia Branner, 54, holding back tears.
Before he left their southeast Ocala home, Dick Branner kissed his wife and told her he would be safe. It would be the last words she would hear from him.
"When I saw the Sheriff's Office vehicle coming up the driveway, I looked for him, and when I didn't see him, I thought maybe he had car trouble and could not drive home. Then when the lady came to me and said we needed to talk, I knew something bad had happened," Patricia Branner said.
An avid flier, Dick Branner had taken his written, oral and flight test three weeks before Sunday's fatal accident. Instructor Rome Wolfe said Branner, a meticulous student who studied every detail, was an "excellent pupil who had at least 100 take-off and landing lessons under his belt."
"I knew he was ready two weeks before he got his license, but Art wanted to continue doing more lessons," said Wolfe, a 10-year advanced flight instructor. "He was very safety-conscious and he had a top-of-the-line ultralight aircraft called the Airborne Edge that was built in Australia."
Dick Branner died on impact from severe injuries to his head, chest and other parts of his body, said Dr. Steven Cogswell of the Medical Examiner's Office.
At a family gathering on Saturday night, he had been excited about flying alone without his instructor watching him.
The Sheriff's Office has not determined the cause of the accident.
Wolfe said the U. S. Ultralight Association issues licenses to those who complete a minimum of 5 hours of flying and more than 3 hours of studying. Wolfe said he goes above the requirement and asks students to complete more than 10 hours for both sessions.
At a family gathering on Saturday night, he had been excited about flying alone without his instructor watching him.
"He was really looking forward to getting up there and really enjoying himself," said Dick Branner's nephew, Raymond Andrews.
The Sheriff's Office has not determined the cause of the accident.
Dick Branner died on impact from severe injuries to his head, chest and other parts of his body, said Dr. Steven Cogswell of the Medical Examiner's Office.
Dick Branner graduated from high school in Michigan in 1961 and a year later joined the U.S. Army.
He served three years as a medical specialist and an Army Airborne Ranger instructor and was honorably discharged in 1965.
He then worked as a diesel mechanic at General Motors, before moving to IBM in 1967. Among his many jobs at IBM, Dick Branner was a engineer, field manager and software service manager. While at IBM, he went back to school and graduated with honors from the Detroit Institute of Technology.
In 1994, Dick Branner retired, but retirement did not slow him down.
Up to time of his death, he was teaching GED courses four days a week at the Community Technical & Adult Education Center. On the weekends, Branner taught basic driving education at a Mid-Florida Driver Improvement School. He also took lessons on the weekends.
"When I told him he's a workaholic, he told me, 'I'm not a workaholic, I just work a lot,'" Patricia Branner said with a laugh. "He lived a full life."
She said he spoiled her and was a man of his word.
"He's the best thing that ever happened in my life," she said. "He was a kind, loving and caring man."

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