The aviation community lost a legend this weekend, local pilots agreed. Eighty-year-old Don Stamp, a pilot of 50 years and founder and organizer of the Don Stamp Warbird Review, died in a single-vehicle traffic crash Saturday evening.
“It’s just tragic, because he’s kind of a legend in the Warbird community, and he was a pillar in the formation of the T-6 North American Trainer Association,” said James Olzacki, president of the Florida Warbirds. “It’s a big loss for the aviation community across the country.”
Just weeks ago, Stamp flew his World War II-era plane in the Florida International Air Show at the Punta Gorda Airport, leading a formation of historic military aircraft in “The Missing Man,” a salute to those who have passed away.
He helped organize formation clinics each year at the Punta Gorda Airport by the T-6 North American Trainer Association to train pilots in the same kind of flight maneuvers he flew in the airshow.
Dana Carr, President of the Florida International Air Show, said Stamp was instrumental in bringing back the airshow in 2016 and the Warbird Review was a big crowd-pleaser.
“He had a nickname, ‘Grumpy,’ but the truth is, he was a very nice person,” Carr said.
According to the Punta Gorda Police Department, Stamp stopped on Herald Court on Saturday evening and activated his emergency flashers. Surveillance video captured his vehicle moving forward slowly, then accelerated for unknown reasons. He crossed Taylor Street, drove up the ramp of the Sunloft Center parking garage, and struck a wall.
It’s unknown if Stamp suffered from a medical emergency prior to the crash, but autopsy results are pending, according to a press release. The crash is still under investigation.
“I’m sure he’s going to be sorely missed, because he’s just a phenomenal guy,” said Stan Smith, president of the Experimental Aviation Association Chapter 565 at the Punta Gorda Airport. “He always supported the local aviation events, and the Don Stamp Warbird Review has become a staple of a lot of airshows around the nation as well as here locally.”
Olzacki said Stamp probably spent half his weekends of the year flying in airshows.
“Even though he had a business in Ohio, his life was pretty much going to airshows,” Olzacki said. “He would do almost anything for those who were putting on some kind of flying event or in need of support for some kind of flight for some other purpose like veterans or a memorial service or a military acknowledgement. He was almost always the first to step up and say he’d be a part of it.”