Byline: Charles F. Bostwick Staff Writer

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE - Edwards Air Force Base personnel mourned the death Wednesday of a top flight test official killed last week when his private plane crashed after a midair collision.

David Lazerson, deputy director of the joint strike fighter test force, was familiar to thousands of Antelope Valley residents for his aerobatic glider flying, which for years had been part of the annual Edwards Air Force Base air show.

``We as a community are saddened by it,'' Edwards spokesman John Haire said Wednesday of Lazerson's death.

Services will be held today at 1 p.m. at St. John's Lutheran Church, 4500 Buena Vista Road, Bakersfield. A memorial service will be at 9 a.m. Friday in Chapel 1 at Edwards Air Force Base.

As deputy director, the 40-year-old Lazerson was helping get a force of military, government and civilian test pilots, engineers and technicians ready for testing Lockheed Martin's F-35, which is expected to replace aging Air Force, Navy and Marine jets, as well as equip the United Kingdom and other nations.

Joint strike fighter flight tests are expected to start in late 2005 at Edwards.

Lazerson was multitalented: He was a certified airline pilot, flying instructor and aircraft mechanic, as well holding a master's degree in engineering from California State University, Fresno, and degrees in aeronautical and mechanical engineering from the University of California, Davis.

As a civilian, Lazerson attended the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards. He graduated in 1990 and later was an instructor there.

Lazerson, a Tehachapi resident, was killed Friday afternoon when his single-engine Cessna 180 collided over the Tehachapi Mountains with a twin-engine Beech 95. The Beech's pilot was able to land safely at a private dirt airstrip near Tehachapi, but Lazerson's plane crashed into a hillside west of the town, Kern County officials said.

The collision was under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board, which as of Wednesday had not released its preliminary report.

Lazerson had taken off from Fox Field in Lancaster. The other aircraft took off minutes before the crash from Tehachapi Airport. Both pilots had been expected to land at their home airports.

As a glider pilot, Lazerson was a frequent flier at air shows, where his craft would silently perform intricate maneuvers, trailing smoke from its wingtips. He had recently performed in Tehachapi and was scheduled to perform Jan. 29 at an air show in Pomona.


To his friends and co-workers, David Lazerson was known as “Laze.” Laze was a full-time husband, father and teacher.

Laze had a passion for flying and it was this passion that led him to be one of the top accomplished air show glider pilots. During his stellar engineering career, Laze served as the Deputy for Engineering with the 413th Flight Test Squadron, Electronic Warfare Division at Edwards AFB and Deputy Director for the Joint Strike Fighter Integrated Test Force, also at Edwards AFB.

Laze was involved with the acquisition and test of aircraft and systems with the United States Air Force since 1985. He was a graduate of UC Davis with degrees in Aeronautical and Mechanical Engineering as well as a graduvate of Cal State Fresno with a Master of Engineering Degree. Laze also held a professional engineering license as well as an FAA airframe and power plant mechanic certificate with inspector authorization. He was an accomplished private pilot with over 5300 flight hours spread amongst 75 different aircraft, and was one of only a handful of glider aerobatic pilots in the country. Laze was one of only a few civilian graduates of the USAF Test Pilot School (Distinguished Graduate), Class 90B, where he later served as the Chief of Flight Test Engineer and Navigator training, the Chief Soaring Instructor and Chief C12 pilot.

Laze lost his life tragically in 2004, leaving behind his wife Kelly and their two young daughters, Claryce and Symantha. Out of Dave’s passion for general aviation and his desire to see soaring remain a solid part of a student’s education, the Laze Memorial Soaring Foundation was founded to carry out Dave’s passion.