It is hard to write down in a few words what the loss of a friend like Ed Zaleski means. He was a lifelong friend. We began by working on go-karts and minibikes, graduated to motorcycles and cars, and did some off-road racing along the way. Ed worked as a jet mechanic in the Air Force, all of which gave us the confidence to tackle our first airplane project, a GlaStar. In the 21 years since, every project was a collaboration between Ed and me, right up to our most current project, the one we were working on the day before he died. He was in so many KITPLANES® photos that he should have been on the payroll. When it came to anything to do with airplanes, it was never what was I doing—it was always what were we doing.
But Ed didn’t just help me; he helped everyone around us. He was a guy who gave of himself and never gave much thought to what was in it for him.
To call Ed a nice guy was true but didn’t say half of what it should about him. He was also a mechanical genius. He was a person who could look at a problem and come up with a slick solution almost every time. He had over 20 patents to his name, mostly for medical devices, but there were so many things that he designed or improved that only his friends will ever know about. Maybe his most impressive one was a hand control that allowed a paraplegic friend to fly his Lancair by himself. In a single control stick he could handle the rudder, brakes—including differential braking—and the throttle. With the other hand taking control of pitch and roll, a paralyzed pilot could perform all normal flight maneuvers without the use of his feet. This had been done before by others, but the elegance and simplicity of Ed’s design was a quantum leap beyond the crude controls of the past. He was working on a similar hand control for Cessnas when he passed.
Some people leave a big hole in other people’s lives when they pass away. Ed was one of those people. We will miss him.