At least twice a week, George Irick Jr. drove 40 minutes from his Congerville home to Pekin Municipal Airport, where he kept his twin-engine Cessna Sky Master plane.
He’d fly, “and just hang out for hours, talking aviation,” said his friend Nick Keith. “He just loved to fly.”
The mood among several employees in the airport’s service hangar remained somber Wednesday, three days after Irick, 68, was found deceased in the cockpit of a plane that crashed Saturday night in thick woods along Indiana’s western border. He’d been flying alone.
“Aviation is a very small community,” Keith said. “A loss like this hits home.”
Irick, Keith said, “was just a kind person ready to help somebody whenever he could. He was a volunteer at heart.”
Irick served on event planning committees at both the Pekin and the Marshall County Airports, said Keith, owner of Keith Aero, the maintenance and service company that operates at the Pekin airport. He met Irick seven years ago at the Marshall airport in Lacon. Irick transferred his plane, which Keith said he helped Irick select for purchase, to Pekin when Keith moved his business there four years ago.
“He was very multi-dimensional, a great and selfless man,” said John Boch, executive director of Guns Save Life, an Illinois firearms advocacy organization in which Irick was active. “He was involved in so many things. He’ll be missed by many.”
Irick, a retired IT analyst for State Farm Insurance in Bloomington, was appointed to the Woodford County Board of Appeals in October.
Keith, who spoke with Irick’s wife, said Irick spent Saturday flying a Cessna 172 single-engine craft from Virginia with plans to deliver it to its owner in Marshall County. He had performed those ferrying duties often, Keith said.
A federal investigation will seek to reveal what caused the plane to crash 12 miles northeast of Danville after it disappeared from radar monitoring at about 10:30 p.m. Keith, however, said he’s confident two possible factors were not involved.
“It wasn’t a medical issue, I know that for certain.” Irick, he said, was in good health.
Nor did Irick likely crash in the woods hidden by the night because he ran out of gas, Keith concluded.
“He was not one to push a fuel tank” to its limit, Keith said. “That’s just not George.”
Irick had stopped to refuel in Columbus, Ohio, and planned to do so again in Danville before his trip’s last leg to Lacon. Punching numbers into his cellphone’s calculator, Keith said the Danville stop wouldn’t have been necessary.
His plane carried 36 “working gallons” of fuel. “He would’ve had enough to get to Marshall” from Columbus, Keith said.
He acknowledged that, “It was a very long day” of flying for Irick, who left Virginia about 11 hours before his plane disappeared.
Alerted that it was no longer being tracked, rescue workers searched through rough terrain and resumed Sunday morning. After a police helicopter spotted the wreckage, Irick was found dead in the overturned craft, heavily damaged by trees it struck.
A previous version of this article incorrectly reported that Irick has served on commissions at the Pekin and Marshall County airports.