David Craig: High expectations led to high performances
By J.E. Geshwiler
Dave Craig had high expectations for the pilot trainers and trainees he came to supervise during his three-decade airline career, and he got a high level of performance from them.
“He was one of the most skillful pilots I ever flew with and a topnotch instructor as well,” said Bill Herndon of Holmdel, N.J., a longtime colleague both at Pan American Airways and Delta Airlines. “Dave could tell instinctively how pilot trainees responded to his teaching and knew when to alter his methods if necessary.”
Craig began flying for PanAm in 1967, first piloting transatlantic flights out of New York to Europe and back. In 1980 he moved to Miami and trained PanAm pilots to fly Airbus A300s and A310s, later becoming director of PanAm flight standards and refining procedures for pilots to follow in emergencies. In 1991 he joined Delta, moving to Atlanta and overseeing trainers and trainees in the operation of Airbus A310s.
David Carston Craig, 75, of Lilburn died last Sunday at MeSun Hospice in Lawrenceville of complications from frontal lobe dementia. His Requiem Mass is 2 p.m. Monday at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Snellville. Interment with military honors will follow at Eternal Hills Memory Gardens. Eternal Hills Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
His daughter, Robin Craig of Atlanta, said he was diagnosed with a memory problem in 1996 and later took part in a study of early memory loss at Emory University’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. She said her father chose to donate his brain to the center with the hope of advancing understanding and treatment of the affliction.
A native Kentuckian, he graduated with honors from the University of Kentucky, where he completed Air Force ROTC training before being commissioned as an Air Force officer. Later he attended Squadron Officer School at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama — a very rigorous program, according to Herndon — and finished at the top of his class.
In 1966 Craig took part in a six-month combat-simulation competition with 24 other fighter pilots over Wheelus Air Force Base in Libya and won a coveted Top Gun trophy for his effort. Flying a F-100 Super Sabre jet fighter, he excelled in two of the weapons events, dive bombing and rocket fire.
“Dave had strong attributes for a combat pilot,” said a fellow Air Force veteran, Jon Zachem of Lexington, Ky. “He was extremely bright, calm under pressure and methodical.
“In addition,” Zachem said, “Dave was a man of high integrity and ethics. He would have made a great general if he had stayed in the service.”
Instead, Craig chose to leave the Air Force in 1967 at the rank of captain.
“Dave had trained to deliver a nuclear weapon from his F-100,” Zachem said. “He and I once had a long conversation about that, and he told me he didn’t think he could live with causing the death of countless innocents. That should tell you a lot about what kind of man he was.”
His wife of 47 years, Beverly Craig, died in 2007. In addition to his daughter, he is survived by a sister, Sharon Tolliver of Lexington, Ky., and a brother, Jonathan Craig of Frankfort, Ky.