ABC7 aviation consultant Ron Wilson dies

July 24, 2011 2:07:52 PM PDT
The Bay Area has lost an aviation icon and historian, and ABC7 News has lost a dear friend.

Ron Wilson, who served as ABC7's aviation consultant, passed away over the weekend. His name might not be immediately recognizable, but long-time ABC7 viewers will probably remember him from several reports over the past years.

San Francisco International Airport is a place where, when all things run smoothly, it's out of sight and out of mind. Wilson was a lot like San Francisco International in that respect.

Wilson spent 43 years as the trusted spokesperson for San Francisco International Airport. Wilson loved the place, its people and even the problems so much that when he retired in 2002, Wilson had more than one year of unused vacation time.

Wilson was there any time we called, even on Christmas Eve in 1994, and he was always uncannily honest anytime ABC7 called.

Ron Wilson was a public official with an extremely rare quality: He trusted reporters and opened doors. We respected him and he respected us.

In the days before tightened security, Wilson would load reporters into his airport sedan and onto the tarmac, close enough to practically touch the planes. Later, as ABC7's aviation consultant, he provided a mine of information. Crash landing in the Hudson River? Call Ron -- he would get us through it.

Beyond that, Wilson was a walking encyclopedia of institutional history. Wilson took photographs of every minor and major incident throughout the decades.

When ABC7 asked Wilson about a Pan Am flight that caught fire and lost 27 feet of wing in 1965, Wilson furnished our reporter with 8mm home videos and helped us find the crew.

However, Wilson's best memory might be a personal one: In 1987, when Pope John Paul arrived at San Francisco Airport, he was on the tarmac with his daughter and grand-daughter.

"He had an aura about him," Wilson told us back then. "He was one of the most holy people on Earth."

Moments later, as the Pope passed by, he blessed Wilson's family members.

"I break up just thinking about it," Wilson said.

Wilson was a terrific spokesman, a good reporter, and a great guy. The ABC7 family will miss him.

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