Remembering Dan Parker
Friday, March 29, 2019
Dan passed away this month at great loss to all who knew him. I don't have sufficient words to remember my loving friend, Dan Parker. Instead, I've setup this website so we can all share stories.
Please put kind thoughts, photos, and messages on this page. If you're new, you can edit this document by logging in (top right), and then clicking on the edit icon:
Contact Joel Brinton (jdbrinton at jdbrinton period com) if you would like access. There have been or will be gatherings held in: Bay Area, Texas, United Kingdom. Please add your name and email address to those pages to help coordinate.
Dan was found deceased several days ago, at the age of 42, at his place of apparent health related issues. Stella, his dog, is being taken care of by his parents. Dan is survived by his mother, Judy O'Donnell, and father, John Parker.
I'll try to start out with an anecdote: Dan and I moved into Edison Technology Park around the same time in ~2010. We spent a lot of time together on the roof, looking at the ISS pass over, watching fireworks, talking about the commercial aerospace industry. For random neighbors we had a lot of friends in common. I was always super impressed how much craftsmanship he put into his home brewed high-altitude aircraft. He was kind of the friend you to for sharing all the details of your life. There was many times over the last decade that he helped me through personal issues. I learned a lot about Dan in exchange. But he was elusive at times and I always wish I could spent more time with him. His death was very sudden and I'm very sad. I'll miss you Dan.
I am already getting requests from the Houston flying community:
Hello John, I have been thinking and would like to suggest that we do something to remember Daniel. Particularly, his talented work and dedication to aeronautical engineering should be appropriately displayed and made public to be remembered for years to come. I would like his brilliant work and designs should be recognized. I am sorry if you think I am speaking out of terms. Take care.
Exactly and along the same theme, but it would be wonderful to document his attempts & achievements, show his talented work and designs. His aircrafts should be looked after by someone who knew Daniel’s work until you and Judy decide where these planes should go to - a school or EAA, etc.
I met Dan about 12 years ago at West Houston Airport; I'm good friends with his father John, also an avid pilot. We had just imported a Yak52 (a russian military trainer aircraft). Dan was mesmerised by it and his knowledge of its unique systems impressed me. It wasn't a very common bird warbird yet. He truly possessed a unique aeronautical mind and his knowledge of all things that fly was superb. He was a brilliant young man and what I consider to be a modern day renaissance man. He was a gentle and kind soul with a contagious smile and enthusiasm for aviation from a multi dimensional aspect. He will be sorely missed by our “Westside Airmen” group in Houston. He had so many chapters left to write in his book of life; his father and the rest of us in this community are heartbroken and at a loss of words as to how we console each other. We would definitely have a “Celebration of life” here in Houston for our group to remember a great young man, a great son and a gifted airman. I'm in touch with John and at the appropriate time I invite the Westside Airmen to join us for an afternoon of remembrance, story sharing but most of all to celebrate a life taken from us way too prematurely.
-Sam Matta (713-398-8056 email@example.com)
Dan lives on through the memories we have of him and the stories we tell about him. This is the story of Dan's Rocket Bike.
In November of 1999, when he was my grad school roommate, Dan realized that while he had studied rockets and had built a full-scale mock-up of a rocket capsule in our living room (yes, really), he had never *ridden* a rocket. Dan thought this needed to be remedied, and quickly. Within 24 hours he had two of the largest model rocket engines he could legally purchase and he fitted them inside pipes that he mounted to the frame of his Diamond Back mountain bike. Two 6V lantern batteries were duct taped to the bike frame and ignition wires ran to a switch on his handlebars. Dan finished the wiring late in the evening and we immediately headed outside and selected the first available straight road for the inaugural ride of the rocket bike, which happened to be the parking lot in front of our 12-story apartment building. Dan pedaled the bike to a moderate speed while counting down to zero, and hit the ignition switch. After a momentary hesitation, both rockets simultaneously ignited. The rocket's red glare in the dark night was a glorious sight. However, both of us had forgotten that rocket launches are exceptionally loud. All twelve stories of the apartment building rushed to their balconies to see what was the matter, and looked out on a parking lot cloaked in smoke and two grad students in the middle of it all shouting with joy. Our celebrations came to a quick end when a well-intentioned resident informed us they had called the fire department. We scurried to take the incriminating bike back up to our eighth floor apartment where, once inside, we realized the bike was still smoking. After a moment of panic, the bike ended up on our balcony–where it blended in with the smell of smoke still rising from the parking lot below. For some time afterwards, Dan could be seen riding around campus on a bike with wires and pipes on it, and he would happily explain what they were for to anyone that asked.
I am one of Dan's many cousins from the UK. With him being one of the oldest, we've all always looked up to him and thought him really cool (still do!). He loved it over here and loved his family, I'm hoping I've successfully uploaded a couple of pictures to help you understand just how much of us there was to love. Despite there being loads of us, he still managed to give everyone time. He had a wonderful skill of making you feel important and interesting (when in actual fact he's there designing a record breaking high altitude vessel). The day before my wedding in 2012, he came to Blackpool to “help out where I can” and just “soak up the vibes”. It was hands-down the most stressful day of my life but Daniel created a sort of calm and happily sat for hours writing out a table plan with my equally stressed mother-in-law. She describes him as charming, engaging and interested which I have to agree with completely.
His death has obviously come as a massive shock to us all. I regret never making it over to see him in CA but want to thank you Joel for setting up this tribute page as we now have a chance to get to know another side to Dan. We were also really touched by the plaque left by friends, Troy and Vanessa, for when Judy and John arrived at the flat. And to all of you for loving our wonderful, kind, clever, big cousin Dan.
— Rosie Gannon 2019/03/31 17:06
Kit Planes Magazine Features Daniel's Plane
Kit Planes magazine featured two articles on Daniels first altitude plane. The author, Bob Fritz, was very good at capturing the excitement of Daniel's project.
First Kit Planes Article - January 2008
After visiting Daniel's workshop, Alan Brown sent the following email
Second Kit Planes Article - Article November 2008
Still Aiming High An update on Dan Parker’s altitude record attempt. BY BOB FRITZ
Dan Parker will be a familiar name to those of you who recall a piece from the January 2008 issue of KITPLANES®. He’s a man of no small ambition, who aims to fly to a new world record altitude of 31,051 feet in an aircraft he designed and built, weighing less than 200 kilo- grams. I checked in to see how things were coming along.
The finished airplane is planned to weigh 415 pounds empty, with a 46-foot wingspan, a length of 17.5 feet, and a Rotax 503 powering it to a Vne of 80 mph. Parker likes to compare it to an F-15. “It’s got the same wingspan at 1.5% the weight,” he says.
The roll-up-door industrial space that is both his home and shop still hums to the sound of the bandsaw, and it shows. The last piece of the structure, the boom, is just being closed. It is 20 feet of carbon fiber that has the same cross section as the mainspar—no coincidence. Both parts are made using the 20-foot alumi- num channel that was close to Parker’s theoretical ideal shape.
The boom is “mostly plies of carbon fiber at +/-45° orientation for twist- ing strength, with lengthwise sticks of Graphlite unidirectional graphite in the corners, which gives the tube its bend- ing strength,” Parker says. For all that length, the naked boom half weighed 9.2 pounds before adding foam bulkheads and splice plates to join the two halves into one. He calls it his subsonic boom. “This is the last piece of structure,” he said, “so then it’s down to completing the subsystems and finishing.”
Not all is roses. The rudder pedals are a good example of the dictum that the weight of the rejected ideas must exceed the weight of the finished airplane or you missed something. Parker says the pedals are “an example of why things take so *&#$ long on the plane.”
Although Parker’s not a large guy, he needs custom rudder pedals. “The foot- well is a little pinched, so I needed nar-
rower pedals with a narrower base that would let me scoot everything forward,” he says. “Each generation is about two- thirds the weight of the one that came before. First was machined aluminum, second was flat foam-core carbon fiber, and final is a built-up carbon mono- coque [no core].”
Last January I submitted that the price would be as low as the weight given Parker’s clever approach to building: no lathe, mill or sheet-metal tools. Any- thing that needs machining goes from a CAD layout to a shop, where one-offs are knocked off cheaply. Molds are made from existing materials.
Turns out I was right. Parker figures he has “$15,000 in parts in the airplane, plus a couple thousand hours of labor, three Dremels, 20 pairs of scissors and a few hundred Band-Aids.” Then there’s the cost of an aeronautical engineering degree from Stanford, where he teaches classes on working with composites. In that, he’s far ahead of Orville and Wil- bur. By the way, not adjusted for inflation, $15,000 is about what the Wright brothers spent on their first airplane.
Ingenuity at Work Parker has designed the plane with the gas tank directly over his head. That’s not unusual, but he hasn’t used the typi- cal fuel gauge made of transparent fuel line. Not wanting any fuel lines in the cockpit, he built his gas tank of carbon fiber for low weight, and then added a translucent fiberglass window on the roof to let sunshine in, with a similar window in the back face. Light in the tank makes seeing the fuel easier than trying to spot the top of a clear liquid in a dark tank. He also added another fiberglass window just above his head. Now he has a line of sight to the fuel, no fuel passing through the cockpit and two fewer tank penetrations.
An especially nice safety touch is the method for removing the door. Most emergency-release mechanisms rely on removing the hinge pin. Parker’s system removes one half of the hinge from the door. Surprisingly, the door doesn’t just fall off, it explodes away from the fuselage. The door half of the hinge is
held in place not with screws, but with spring-loaded pins, which pass from the outside, through the hinge and through the door. Two piano-wire-type pull cables are inserted through the ends of the spring pins, arming the door so that when the cables—which terminate in a single knob—are pulled, the spring pins are ejected from the hinge. The spring-load on the door latch is then free to shove the door forward into the airstream. “I guess if I have to pull this while in flight, I won’t even see it go. It’ll just disappear in less than one second,” he said.
Parker’s primary lesson to date is that if he were to start over, the plane would look completely different, rely more on existing technology and be done in half the time. “Previous airplanes I’ve built were a kit where I assembled someone else’s work,” he said. “This time I have to design it, build the kit and then assemble the parts. That takes a lot longer.”
Launch date is not decided, but by the time you read this, Parker will have made some test flights, as full assembly is taking place as this is written.
Photos: Bob Fritz KITPLANES November 2008 31
This article was imported by Joel Brinton
Daniels Grumman AA1A gets ready for flight
Daniel's Grumman hadn’t been flown for a while and needed some TLC.
A rescue team consisting of Clarke Crawford, Suzy Crawford and Bill Andersen went to Palo Alto airport. With a few hours of cleaning, the exterior looked normal. With a quick check of the engine, we were ready to start the engine. After a few propellor turns, the engine kicked into life. What a sweet sound the Grumman engine makes! Soon the Grumman will get an annual inspection and be ready to fly.
Hi All, My husband Jim and I were neighbors of Dan and Stella in NFO. We met Dan shortly after he got Stella as we had just adopted a rescue and we would see eachother out on walks. He and Jim connected on mutual points of interest, cars and planes. We spent many evenings visiting at our house with the doggies, enjoying Dan's stories of travel, family, flying, friends. He and Jim would talk about cars and planes until I would say, ok guys, let's talk about something else I can relate to. He was such a delightful guy, kind and intelligent. We will really miss him. Jan Slimmer
Daniel- The Scottish connection.
Daniel was always close to his Scottish roots and often visited Coatbridge on his travels. On one rare family get together we managed a photograph of (almost) the whole family from all airts and pairts. Scotland, England, Ireland, South Africa and Zimbawbe.
On another visit he called in and we got another photo of him and Granny Parker.
Here is one of the family cousins.
Always interested in Scotland and what was going on, he was an avid listener to the Scottish Parliament First Minister's question time. While our former first minister (Alex Salmond) was on a visit to San Francisco, Daniel managed to meet and chat with him,
On his next visit to Scotland he attended First Minister's question time and met the current first Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
Daniel always seemed to be in the right place at an appropriate time and the last time he visited Scotland he managed to make a wee trip to the Isle of Bute to see the test runs of Donald Campbell's restored Bluebird.He helped at the launch for one of the test runs.
He didn't manage a trip to Coatbridge on that occasion, but we knew he was in Scotland, and that was as good as him being here with us, we will miss him greatly.
Dan and I were cousins. Ian (to the Parkers) or John (to everyone else) and my dad, Jimmy, are brothers. Dan and I were born 10 days apart. We never lived in the same place, but spent time together on holidays, usually with my family visiting exotic far-flung places like Oslo, California and Texas.
I hadn't seen Dan for a long time, probably since my Granny Parker passed away. But even now, when I look back, he made a big impression.
It was Dan, really, who got me interested in science fiction, a shared love of which brought me and my best friend, and me and my husband together.
I still drink my coffee black, because that's what Special Agent Dale Cooper did, and it was Dan who introduced me to Twin Peaks.
When I (finally) went on Space Mountain, I felt like I'd finally live up to Dan's expectations (even though he was the one that scared me off it in the first place, telling me it went 200km an hour).
And I still don't know if those were really black widows in the back garden!
I'll always regret that I didn't take the chance to get to know Dan as an adult. But reading all the stories here makes me feel as though I did still know him, and that he was every bit the person he promised to be as a child.
Cecilia Parker Aranha, 1st April 2019
Stella and Raphael were best friends and through them I met Dan. Stella was a new puppy and she poked her nose through the porthole in my gate one day to say hello to Rafe. Soon after, Stella and Rafe were regularly chasing balls, toys and each other in the backyard, and Dan and I were hanging out in what became many wonderful times enjoying long and short talks, exchanging mutual enthusiasms, sharing the results of our gardens, watching the ISS and lots of fun with the pups. Dan and Rafe were great buddies and Rafe adored him. The canine introduction was the start of an extraordinary friendship with with an extraordinary friend–the best friend possible.
One summer evening, Stella and Dan were out for a walk. Stella decided it was time to pay a social call to her friend, Raphael. She sprinted to the front porch and stood on her hind legs to greet Rafe. Dan captured the moment.
Daniel sent out ornaments at XMAS. The ornaments were designed and completed by Daniel. The ornaments were made with the same precision as his airplane projects. As well as being an engineer, Daniel was also an artist.
Daniel, my cousin, was more of an inspiration to me, than I ever really got to tell him. As someone who suffered with anxiety issues through my teens and early 20's, I can say with some clarity that Dan was one of the very few people in my life, with which I always felt calm and rested. Equally rare, was his ability to go with his heart and his head. I tend to find that most people go with one or the other. Daniel however, was a fountain of knowledge but also immensely interested in the minuicia of everyday conversation. When he talked with someone, he gave them his devoted attention and he didn't want to be anywhere else. Guilty as charged, I cannot say the same for myself.
Thinking back, Dan was always one of the people I really wanted to impress. He once told me (in passing conversation up North) that he really liked one of my songs from a cd I gave him. I didn't say at the time but I was totally made up. He told me about his favourite band at that time 'Jethro Toll'. Such was his nature that he didn't correct my mispronounciation at the time. A summer or two later and the band were playing at Cropredy festival (where other family were already regulars). I went along, loved the band, loved that I got to spend more time with family and have been going ever since. I have Daniel to thank for that.
As kids, we wrote a few letters to each other (across the pond)and I still have them, crisp as the day they arrived. Dan wrote of things that were alien to me, like playing with rockets. I remember having so many questions for him, the next time I saw him. There was always some new project that he wanted to share with us.
As adults (but still kids at heart) family get togethers were at their absolute best, when Dan was present. I remember a bunch of us cousins going out for drinks in Workington (Northern England) at a fairly run down night club. It was however, without doubt, one of my top 5 nights out ever. Dan's enthusiasm and excitement for it, completely changed the landscape and all sorts of conversations and shenanigans were in full flow that night. I'm certain that someone I don't know will read this and know exactly, what I'm struggling to put into words.
Dan is also responsible for a great deal of my foreign travels. Certainly, for kick starting them. It was at our cousin Rosie and Sam's wedding that Dan advised me on going to Barcelona and Berlin. 9 days later, I was on a trip to both. I would have loved to have had a beer in Berlin with you Dan.
There's so many other memories but my main realisation, this last week, is that Daniel formed a big part of who I am and that that part of myself, is one of the parts I love the most. I will always have Dan in my heart and shall endeavour to keep his goodness alive in conscientious good deeds and adventures of my own. He was my cousin by blood but my dear, good, good buddy by obvious choice.
'Rotate'… my friend.
I'm another of Dan's cousins from the UK. He was always some what of a hero to us all growing up. 'Dan from America' is how he most recently referred to himself but our cool older cousin was known for more than this; Dan who flew planes and Dan who built cars, Dan the Astronaut! I would tell tales to my friends at school about my cousin from America. I remember when he was featured in a magazine article and I finally got to prove to everyone that these tales I had been telling were true! My earliest memory of Dan and probably one of my earliest of my Nana was when she lived at Roper Terrace. I must have been about 6 or 7 making Dan about 14 or 15. Everyone else was out I think (or perhaps there were some children in the garden racing snails) but I was in the kitchen with Dan and my Nana. Nana was making a pie for dinner and there was some pastry left over so she rolled us each a ball and told us to cut out our initial - I did my 'K' and Dan did his 'D' (he also made an 'N' for Nana). I remember being really impressed at the job he'd done because his had curved edges and still looked really good! Nana baked it and gave it to us hot from the oven - we sat eating it on the side in the 'back kitchen'. Throughout our childhoods, Dan maintained his title as cool older cousin and he gained some new ones as we've grown up; Dan who ties rockets to his bike, Dan who drinks Iron Bru (and doesn't realise when it's an alcoholic version), Dan who sends the Christmas Tree decorations, Dan who asks about your life (and really listened to the answer you gave), Dan who loved his family so incredibly and Dan who will “always have your back”. There are so many more memories that we wish we could have made with him but the ones we have will be cherished and treasured. Love you Dan x
Dan will always be the most interesting guy I’ve ever known. Even from an early age I remember sharing stories (some may call it bragging) about my “big cousin Dan in America” with my friends at school. It’s so nice to be able to hear those stories and many more on this site. I’d like to share this picture that was taken in August last year. It was taken the night before my brothers wedding. We were heading out to a (very small) Italian and by some perfect timing, we managed to bump into some of the family (including Judy, John and Dan) who came to join us. We all somehow managed to squeeze around one table and it was such a brilliant evening. I remember my husband and I managing to spend some time catching up with Dan that evening. As Chris has already mentioned, he was, as always completely invested in conversation with us. I remember thinking that our life must seem so mundane to him, his life is so full of adventure and experiences that surely he would be getting bored of me talking by now. But he wasn’t (or at least he hid it well!) He enjoyed hearing stories about our children and I remember him saying how proud he was of his “grown up little cousin”. Dan was in his element that evening and that whole weekend. If his face didn’t tell you so, he sure did. I remember having a fair few group hugs where Dan would share how happy he was to be with us all. The smile never left his face. Before saying goodbye that weekend, he gave the warmest hug and said “I know I’m thousands of miles away, but if you ever need anything, please just give me a call”. I told him I’d be over to see him as soon as I could. I regret not making more of an effort to make that possible. I would have loved to have seen his creations and to have spent the time learning more of his wonderful life. Thank you Joel for creating this site to enable us learn, hear and share memories of Dan. A gentle soul taken far too soon. Your memories will be shared forever and the legends of Dan Parker will inspire so many.
I love you
Caroline (Dan’s cousin, Lancashire, England)
I am Daniel’s Auntie Doreen (John’s sister) and live in Australia
I can count on my two hands how many times I met Daniel in his life, as our family lives far from each other so I didn’t know him all that well but I would like to share some memories. I first met Daniel when he came from Norway to Rhodesia with his dad for his grandpa’s funeral. These are pictures of him meeting my son Marc for the first time and one of them with my mum (their Granny Parker). Even then Daniel was making his mark and I remember that my brother had to rush him off to Johannesburg hospital on the way as he had fallen off the bench in the airport transit lounge and knocked himself out and required stitches.
My mum and dad loved their Dan Dan (as they called him) and always spoke of how even as a toddler he knew the makes of all the cars in the UK. His favourite was a Mercy Benz. As an adult Daniel would visit my mum as she had by then moved back to Scotland and he was always so patient and caring with her. My mum kept me up to date with where he was and what he was doing. She was as proud as punch of him and loved him totally.
One time visiting my grandpa (his great Grandpa Parker) in his nursing home in Shettlestone, Scotland probably about 1980 – Marc and Daniel discovered the floors were great for sliding on if they took their shoes off. The quiet old aged home came alive with them whooping with laughter and running and sliding up and down the hallways. The old folks loved it.
In about 1992 we had a family reunion in Scotland and I have attached two photos, one of all the family and another of the cousins (one cousin Christopher is not in the photos). I am so glad we have the photos to remind us as its probably the only time they were all together.
As an adult, I only met Daniel a couple of times. I knew he was very clever but never once when we chatted did I feel he was talking down to me. And that was Daniel. He could relate to all sorts of people in all walks of life and had a knack for making them feel comfortable, because he truly was interested in everyone and everything. He had the most enquiring mind.
When my son Andrew married in Melbourne, Australia in 2008 John, Judy & Daniel made the trip over for the wedding. I remember going out to dinner one evening and listening to Daniel and Marc chatting together. They could have been speaking a foreign language as their talk was so technical I don’t think anyone else at the table would have any idea what they were talking about except maybe my brother John. But they seemed to understand each other well. Pictures are attached of Marc and Daniel and one of Marc, Andrew and Daniel at the wedding. We so appreciated the fact that he made the long trip to Australia for the wedding.
Lately Daniel and I have corresponded at Christmas time and I am the proud recipient of every one of his Christmas decorations. As his auntie, and as family, we are very proud of him and all his achievements. He was and is greatly loved and we will miss him.
Doreen Cawood (Australia)
Hi, I am one of Daniel’s aunties! Aunty Jane from Blackpool, my husband is Neil, Judy’s brother and of course Daniel’s uncle. We have so many happy memories of times Spent with Judy, John and Daniel, the night before our wedding back in November 1982, we were lucky enough to have our little page boy walking beside us, standing in front of us and making our day so special. As I looked through our wedding album tonight I noticed immediately how the eyes of his cousins even back then looked to him, he very quickly became their inspiration, he ALWAYS had time for every member of his family and always made them feel special. We were absolutely blessed by Daniel on our lives and thank God for every special moment we had with him, just a few days before ago, Neil thought he’d missed a call from his sister Mary, I explained that only a couple of people had our land line number (it had been recently changed) and I didn’t even think we had a working answer phone!!!!! But when we pressed play we were lucky enough to hear Daniel’s ever happy voice, of course asking how we all were and explaining that he probably wouldn’t make the trip To Ireland with Neil, his uncle Peter and this rcousin Jimmy! But that he would try and face time!!! It was tough listening to this but yet warming too as always sending love and wishing everyone well. Without a doubt Daniel will be greatly missed by us all, he will never be forgotten, he will stay forever young, happy, loved, kind, intelligent, gifted and an absolute honour to have as a nephew, I echoed the wonderful Words of his friends - thank you Judy & John for sharing your amazing son with us all. Sleep well. Good night & God Bless xxxxxxxx
I became Daniel’s auntie at the grand old age of 10 years with my brother Phillip being 12 years. We are the youngest of the O’Donnell clan. Dan was nephew number two, with Graham making us aunt and uncle two years earlier (so we were already experts!).
Phillip, mam and I went to visit Judy, John and Daniel when they lived in Oslo. Dan must have been about two years old and used to sing to us: ‘Hadda ma Pippy Long Starom, tolay, tolay, tolay’ (written as he pronounced).
We had a family dog named Tina, everybody loved Tina but Daniel LOVED Tina and Tina LOVED Daniel.
Daniel was one of twenty grandchildren. His Nana had a way of making every one of them feel special and every single one of them is.
My angel, that Daniel made, lives in my lounge and that’s because he made one for his Nana’s house at the same time, one that shines bright. Seeing it every day has helped me immensely – thanks for doing this Dan x
We love you Daniel and always will, you will always be in our hearts, our conversations and our laughter, and as Nana would say Good Night, God Bless xxxxxxx
Love Cathy (Daniel’s Auntie, Cheshire, England, although a Cumbrian lass by heart)
I am married to Daniel's cousin Rosie (we were married in 2012) so knew him all too briefly and I am so grateful that despite the short number of years and great distance I had the opportunity to get to know him.
Whilst I know this is not unique to me, Dan was someone with whom I just clicked. He was a fascinating guy to speak with (for obvious reasons), but equally he seemed fascinated to learn about you - when conversing with Dan it was as though he had all the time in the world for you and there was a genuine interest in what you had to share; a quality all too rare in the world today.
I enjoyed our many encounters at family events and he had a wonderful way with our son Gabriel and all the children of his cousins, of which there are quite a number now. Dan radiated with joy when he got to spend time with his family and it was heartwarming to be part of. We can often take family for granted but Dan never did - with him time together was always quality time. As a relative newcomer into the fold, Dan in particular gave me and other in-laws a tremulously warm welcome - once we'd signed up we knew we were part of his family and that was such a great feeling.
Dan clearly had a very keen sense of his identity and heritage and was exemplary in celebrating it. He always made extraordinary efforts to connect with family members, especially in recent years when there have been many weddings etc., and even if he could not be at an event in person he was always sure to let everyone know he was there in spirit. It is an irony that as the farthest flung family member he was a great teacher and leader among his wider Clan in the importance of family (a trait shared by, and I am sure inherited from Judy).
Not that it was ever explicitly discussed before now, but it was clear to me from our first encounter how very greatly admired and respected Dan was by his cousins. As an elder in his generation all his cousins very much looked up to him, and naturally enough this admiration was shared by in-laws and his cousins' children. It is funny that, despite having only ever met as adults, I too would talk about Dan with pride - my boss started out as an aeronautical engineer and I have often spoken with him excitedly about Dan's various projects and achievements over the years. I guess this is partly a result of how passionate Dan was about his field of work - to have had one's work and interest as one and the same thing is definitely a life well lived and a great example to us all.
I have fond memories of our all-too-few encounters. I remember a brilliant moment at my sister-in-law's wedding. I was chatting away to a young lady and then walked across the room to greet Dan. He asked who I was chatting with and if I might introduce him as he thought she was beautiful, to which I promptly informed him that it was my younger sister! He couldn't help but look a bit bashful, but remained resolute in his opinion! We both immediately had a great laugh at the sitcom-esque moment. Dan always had that perfect combination of forthright Scottish candour, diffident English charm and warm American confidence. More the pity we then got sidetracked into another fascinating catch-up - he would have made the best brother-in-law! As it is he was the most excellent cousin-in-law and I am very lucky to have had the privilege.
I hope he knew how greatly admired and respected he was by his family and how affirming he was to spend time with. It still seems so unreal that Dan is no longer with us and I half expect to see him at the next family gathering, where I would look forward sharing a beer, having a fascinating conversation and enjoying quality time. As we know, he will still be there in spirit. It is a comfort to think he is now spending quality family time in a different joyful place, especially with his Nana who adored him so much.
Dan you are very greatly missed; thank you for being such a great example to all of us.
Hello everyone, I'm Dan's auntie Mary from Kent. Near London, UK.
Dan often stayed with us when he was off on his travels as we live close to London and not far from the airport. Dan would ring up and say “can I have a bed for a night or two”, or when he came to stay with us for Christmas 2017 he asked me if there was any room at the inn. My reply was always yes as I loved seeing him and spending time with him. I thought of him as one of the lads. I lived with Judy, John and Dan when I first moved to London in 1977, from the Lake District in Cumbria.
I remember when Dan first flew to the UK on his own ,he was about 9 years old. He came over to spend some time with his Nana who lived in Workington Cumbria. His Nana had a dog called Tina, she was a black and white Cocker Spaniel who was a bit mischievous,once having destroyed the Christmas Tree when trying to eat all the chocolates on it. It soon became Dan's mission to give Tina some training. He would do this by getting her to sit whilst he, sitting down would put a piece of biscuit (cookie) on his knee all the time telling Tina to stay and not to touch. This would go on for quite some time with intense eye to eye contact between the two of them. Eventually he would say to her,” go on you can have it” and within a flash the biscuit had disappeared. Needless to say when Dan went back to the US, Tina would revert back to her old ways. There was a special bond between Dan and Tina., no one else could get her to resist those biscuit the way that Dan could.
Another memory I have of when Dan used to stay with his Nana was of him being allowed to walk to a particular newsagents shop called Ashcrofts which was down a hill and in a little village called Harrington. His Nana would send him on an errand giving him 10p for sweets or a bag of rubbish as she would call it, pure sugar, pick and mix. Dan would more often than not ask his Nana each day if she needed him to go on an errand to Ashcrofts for her. The staff at Ashcrofts soon got to know him and asked his Nana how he was doing for a long time after he had returned to the US.
I will carry you in my heart always Grasshopper.
I first encountered Dan in early 2016 when I began dating my now husband, Troy Mestler, who at the time was subleasing office space for his drone company in Edison Technology Park, where Dan was also located.
Occasionally I’d drive out to Troy’s office to pick him up, and when I did, invariably I’d hear someone shouting, “STELLAAAAAAA, STELLAAAAAAAAAAA!” and notice a slim, redheaded man attempting to wrangle his energetic hound while on their evening outing. I just about always chuckled to myself, remembering the famous Streetcar scene. “What a brilliant name for a dog,” I thought.
I’d never have guessed what extraordinary, precious friends Dan and his Stella would become to me and my family.
In Summer 2016 my job took me to the East Coast and Troy got his own office in the complex, just a couple doors down from Dan. Like Dan, Troy started living there. I tried to make it out to visit for a week or so each month, and during those visits I finally started to get to know that man with the dog named Stella.
I think it was during our first one-on-one conversation that Dan showed me a photo with him and Stella as a puppy, taken on the first evening that they met. He told me how later that same night he couldn’t stop thinking about her, how it felt meant to be, and how he knew he had to have her. Did he ever love that dog!
I’d pace outside Troy’s office quite a bit on my visits, and whenever Dan was around he’d ask what I was thinking about and working on. He really surprised me with his extraordinary breadth and depth of knowledge. I’d known vaguely that he was working at a flying car company at the time, but he was so interested in my data science work that I hardly knew it wasn’t his field. He had quite a few amusing anecdotes about statistical problems in forensic aviation to share. I enjoyed his precise and careful manner of thinking, and his enthusiasm.
We bonded over the importance of “getting our hands dirty” with real world, real time problems that we cared about. How these kind of experiences nourish theoretical work. I was only just learning this lesson, but it was one Dan already knew well. He related how he’d decided to work a minimum wage airfield job in the middle of grad school, if I remember correctly, and I really admired that.
Like many people, when in Dan’s company, I felt like the most important person in the world. Like he had all the time in the world for me. No matter how much stress I was under, after a chat with Dan I was breathing more deeply and slowly, and felt more connected and more optimistic.
Shortly after Troy and I decided to marry, I moved out to California again full time in April 2017 and I began bunking with Troy near Dan. I went on a walk with Dan and Stella nearly every day during that time. As my friendship with Dan deepened we discovered a shared interest in social dancing: blues, waltz, Argentine tango, and English country dance. He really enjoyed meeting and connecting with people from all walks of life he wouldn’t otherwise through dance and had fun stories to share about his latest dance adventures.
We also shared stories about our childhood and our parents. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who expressed such genuine fondness and admiration for their parents as Dan did. Such real excitement to visit them and share experiences with them, too. I thought: If I’m ever a parent I hope my children have that kind of relationship with me.
After the fire inspectors discovered that Troy and I were living in the office and kicked us out, we had to find another place to live posthaste. Dan dropped everything and did much of the heavy lifting to help us move.
In the months that followed, busy with newly married life and a new home, I found myself not making my way over to see Dan as frequently as I would have liked, but it was always such a pleasure to see him when I did.
But when Troy and I welcomed our first child into the world, and I started stopping by the offices during lunch so our little one could have a visit with dad, my friendship with Dan resumed like it had never skipped a beat. After lunch baby Jack and I would ring Dan’s doorbell, and Dan and Stella would join us for a walk. Stella was the first dog that Jack ever met. Did those two ever become good friends! Licks all over Jack’s face were going to happen no matter what, so it was easier to decide that they was beneficial for Jack’s immune system.
When neighbors would see Dan and I on our walks, Dan would say that I was trying to get him in shape, but this was a generous bending of the truth, since I could barely walk myself then. Dan walked ever so slowly with me and made those lonely first months of motherhood so much brighter.
We talked about anything and everything. Philosophy and physics. Math and music. He’d already read up on the “mommy wars” raging on internet forums and had detailed thoughts about decorating the nursery. (He took over painting Jack’s nameplate when he thought my paint coats were too thick and I wasn’t leaving enough time to dry between layers.) He’d formulated his own plan for how I might ensure that Jack would be able to maintain perfect pitch into adulthood. And on and on.
While Dan always freely shared of himself with respect to emotional struggles he’d faced in his past (it seemed there wasn’t a single experience he couldn’t relate to), I never explicitly knew what was “going on below” in his present. Sometimes I found myself wishing I knew him better in that way.
Dan’s professional and hobby work in aviation was widely known to be prodigious and of the highest quality, but it was his enthusiastic and careful interest in everyone and what they cared about that struck me the most about him. Whether taking the time to thoroughly read an obscure website I’d mentioned in passing a couple months back and follow up with me about it, or thoughtfully discussing with my husband which fighter might have the advantage in an upcoming mixed martial arts bout, Dan was always interested.
For Dan, everything human was important. In my time knowing Dan I never once witnessed him express contempt for anyone or anything. Dan recognized value everywhere and in everyone.
I can’t help but remember my friendship with Dan as intertwined with the founding story of my own family. I hope that as I mature I will grow to live up to the values that Dan embodied, and that my baby son will someday too.
Vanessa Boren Mestler
I worked for Daniel's father, John, for 25 years and first met Daniel when he was in high school. Even at that young age, I found Daniel to be a remarkable person. Daniel had a great curiosity and lived life to the fullest. I was particularly struck by how he often seemed to be in the right place at the right time. His mother, Judy, told the story of how he once scored choice seats at Wimbledon while standing in front of center court. Daniel would come by the office to say hi when he was visiting from California (as a student and later as an adult). We would discuss classic rock music, particularly Jethro Tull and the Grateful Dead. What impressed me most about Daniel was that he could discuss rocket science and rock and roll with equal skill and knowledge. Daniel was one of the smartest people I've ever met, but I never felt that I was at an intellectual disadvantage. He had an incredible way of relating to those he encountered. Our discussions were all too infrequent and brief, and I will miss them.
A Note Sent Out to the Product Realization Lab (PRL) at Stanford University
Dear PRL Friends,
This is a sad note.
Our beloved friend, instructor, mentor, muse, and type-specimen for Honorary Shop TA – Turbo Dan Parker – recently passed away in his home-shop in Menlo Park.
As anyone who basked in Dan's light knows: Dan was *astonishingly* brilliant. And so consistently generous. And so reliably hilarious.
There is much more to say, in different contexts.
Dan's Mom & Dad would truly appreciate our stories and asked that we assist in sharing this sad news across his seemingly endless network of friends and colleagues. All details are TBD but there will be services in the UK, Texas, & California.
Another request from Mom:
“Think of all the good times you and Daniel had and smile and be glad for them.”
We miss you so much Turbo Dan. But we are so grateful for our time we shared.
Jim Lovette (Jimbo)
I am a friend of the family and worked for John briefly… Aviation was our common thread. Daniel was always engaging, regardless of the subject or the audience, he was very personable and unassuming… learning those attributes from his family.
Most of my interaction with Daniel was discussing aircraft, systems, and the unique people he had met over the years… his passion for anything aviation seemed insatiable. Back in 2006 when I brought home and began flying my brand new Experimental Amateur Built airplane which I bought from someone that had a great reputation for quality construction, Daniel came by my hangar to inspect… and knowing Daniel’s background and credentials, I was nervous at what issues his inspection might discover. He only found one issue which he felt warranted a great deal of concern for my safety until he learned that it was part of the engineering design… I was comforted to know how concerned he was for my safety, and because he had found no other issues, I have always flown my plane comforted by the knowledge that Daniel’s inspection found my plane to be safe…
Daniel surprised both John and me at Airventure Oshkosh 2018 by arriving unexpectedly in Oshkosh on the night after we arrived from Houston in John’s 182. Daniel knocked on our door unannounced, and we both were very happy to see him. Judy was aware of his expected arrival but kept the secret from us…
I have a different perspective compared to some of the above posts, but one that Dan would easily identify with. I joined Stanford after Dan had graduated, but heard of him as soon as I started dabbling in general aviation. Soon after I learned to fly, I started making sketches of a custom airplane of my own. That led me to Dan. He presented at an EAA meeting at the Hiller Museum a decade ago and I was there looking at the person I really wanted to be! I used to visit Dan's shop every two years or so to see what he was up to, get his feedback on my ideas, and to get a feel for how making and airplane could take over my life. Dan would inevitably point out areas where I was overthinking and show me parts and pieces in his shop to convince me of what mattered more. I helped Dan assemble his first high-altitude airplane (the one in the KITPLANES article) in the parking lot and also helped him move it to the Frazier Lake airport. As a PhD who could not change the oil in my car, I was duly impressed to see Dan whipping around a 24 ft Penske truck like his Miata. Dan didn't know, but that trip gave me the confidence that renting a truck to move an airplane was feasible. An year or two later, I rented one and moved a rickety ultralight from Hollister to Half Moon Bay. That got me started seriously into aviation, maintaining and flying an aircraft that I did not know much about. Gave me good hands-on experience that is useful to me professionally every day. Dan, being Dan, gave me a broken vacuum pump that his landlord had discarded around 2008 or thereabouts. Today I am building a custom airplane of my own. That vacuum pump is still chugging air out of my composite layups. Dan gave me several feet of carbon rod a few years ago too. Those carbon pieces are in the spar-caps for the wings that are on my workbench today. He was truly an inspiration in terms of what was possible, and what it took to make it so. He also gave me a tour of his shop when his new airplane was coming together. And, he wouldn't stop for a breath while describing how much time he saved by changing his design to maximize the use of identical CNC/pre-built parts! If I ever finish my homebuilt, it will owe its genesis to Dan's advice and critique. He spent an enormous amount of effort meticulously working on his designs. He saw right through my fancy analyses and yet encouraged me every time so I could find my way myself. It wasn't easy to notice until I got my hands dirty with epoxy.
My write-up here lacks the warmth in his family's posts. But I wrote it exactly as a meeting with Dan would go. We could talk for hours about airplanes and not one other topic would come up in the conversation. We had the same books, we used the same glues, the same fiberglass, the same fillers! I'd like to believe that he enjoyed talking to me too since I was always designing or building parts, or at least talking about them.
It should be no surprise that Dan was such a beacon for those he met. My deepest condolences go to his family. We will miss him and remember him every time we see anyone's eyes light up with enthusiasm for a topic they love.
With best regards, Chinmay Patel 4/5/2019
Paintings by Daniel
I will always remember Dan as an exemplary student in my geometry honors class at Episcopal High School in Houston. His genuine interest in people, passion for aviation, intellectual curiosity, and determination were among the most memorable in my three decades of teaching. When Vuong (my husband) arranged for my students another special visit of Ellington Field and Johnson Space Center, Dan asked to join us so that he could meet astronaut John Young and see astronaut Steve Nagel again. Dan’s flight from California had to land in Austin instead, so Dan looked for alternatives then took a ride with fellow passengers to get to Houston barely in time for the tour. Through the years, I also admired and appreciated Dan’s humility, kindness, and thoughtfulness as we stayed in touch – regrettably, not frequently enough. My heart aches for all of us as I will continue to cherish my memories of Dan.
Daniel had many flying adventures. This first video captures Daniel's first solo on his 16th birthday, December 28, 1992. It was an overcast day and we wern't sure if the first solo would be possible. But then Daniel's instructor turned him loose to do 3 takeoffs and landings. The great training that Daniel received at West Houston Airport was a good basis for his continual increase in flying skills. “Your not learning if the props not turning!” was one of his sayings.
Dan flying Grumman at IWS
This next video shows Daniel landing the Grumman at West Houston Airport. This was taken some years after his solo flight when he had his private pilots license. This clip shows how he bleeds off speed by gently raising the nose of the plane before touchdown.
Landing at Oshkosh.
The next video shows Daniel landing the Cessna at Oshkosh. Air traffic control can be landing 6 planes a minute so pilots need to land with great precision. At the opening of the clip we are flying east just south of the main North-South runways at Oshkosh. In order to land we need to turn through 270 degrees and descend 1000 feet to land on the colored dot. In the second part of the clip we are on left base for runway 18R. This clip transitions into final approach to land on the red dot on the runway. There was a 15 knot crosswind at Oshkosh that day so skill was required!
Takeoff from Oshkosh
Takeoffs at Oshkosh are also highly controlled because planes are still landing! This clip shows an uneventful takeoff under the direction of air traffic controllers in pink shirts. In the first part of the clip we are taxiing on grass towards the taxiway with other planes by our side - a bonanza is prominent. Then we transition onto hard taxiway towards the runway and the air traffic controllers. As we are directed towards the runway threshold, you can see that planes are still landing on the runway (Runway 27). We then halt for a few minutes after which we are directed onto the runway. Takeoffs have to be executed expeditiously because there are planes coming in behind you to land on the same runway. Nerves of steel! Nerves of steel! Once in the air you are rewarded with excellent panoramas of the Oshkosh field.
Adventure at a Shuttle Launch
I met Dan when he interned at AlliedSignal (Honeywell) in Tempe, AZ. He took the money he earned and poured it into stunt flying lessons. One day he came in all excited because he had experienced the tunnel vision effect that is associated with high g maneuvering.
A few years later John Glenn went back into space aboard the Space Shuttle and Dan and his dad invited me to join them and watch it live. It is still one of the coolest things I've ever experienced - a million pounds of thrust traveling across the Florida waters and right into your chest.
Dan was a great ambassador of all things aerospace. I would describe him to people as the only person I ever met who I would choose to be an astronaut ahead of me. Ad Astra!
Brad Krake Aerospace Engineer and fellow space enthusiast.
I normally don’t post anything involving my private life on the Internet, but I felt a certain kind of perspective about Dan was missing in these memories. I can only hope Dan would have approved what I share and that maybe a few others with a similar perspective will share their memories as well.
I met Dan Parker at a San Francisco Giants baseball game outing for Stanford young alumni when we were in our mid-twenties. We happened to be seated near each other and we struck up the regular conversation—name, year graduated, freshman dorm, college major—and then continued chatting through a few innings. About the sixth inning, I told him I had to interrupt our conversation to take a phone call I received from my grandmother. He just smiled and told me he knew what it was like to be close to a grandmother too. Dan handed me his card as he had to leave the game early and I decided to get in touch with him a few days later.
We met for drinks, hit it off, and then dated for about four and a half months. In those months, beyond his obvious love of aviation, I learned that he turned a bit red and his eyes watered when he ate really spicy food, that he was a great dancer, that he enjoyed a good conversation as much as I did, and that he knew what it meant to not only be related to family, but to be friends with them too.
I also remember how incredibly charming Dan could be. I met him at his apartment one Saturday evening after we’d been dating about a month. When I arrived, he had just finished dressing, but still needed to do a few things before we headed to the restaurant. So, I stood in his kitchen area and asked him how his day went. He placed some soiled takeout boxes from the counter in the trash, looked over, and said simply, “I just had the perfect day.” I assumed he would tell me about a breakthrough about building his plane and asked him what had made it so great. While he put on his shoes, he told me he started his day sitting on the hood of his car, watching the sun come up, and eating his ideal breakfast of a diet coke and a doughnut. I interjected “yuck!” and made a comment about how only one of those items should be consumed anytime near sunrise. Unfazed, he told me he spent the morning working on his plane and then flew to Monterey for a spur of the moment lunch with a buddy from the airfield. I responded with how absolutely beautiful that must have been, while secretly hoping he’d take me up in a plane sometime. He walked to the table to get his car keys and wallet explaining how he flew back, worked on his plane some more, came home, and cleaned up. At that point, he was ready to go and had ended up where I was standing. He said, “And, now I get to spend the evening having a great meal with a beautiful woman.” He smiled smugly at me knowing I’d walked right into his little trap. Of course, I rolled my eyes, smiled, and kissed him right then and there. How could I not? He had woven a perfect little story and I didn’t see it coming.
While things obviously did not work out between us and we lost touch, I am grateful I dated Dan all those years ago. That’s not always something we can say about people from our past. I came away from our relationship having grown as a person and having learned new things such as the names of small aircraft and what makes sparkling wine “methode champenoise”. He was an incredibly decent, kind, intelligent, passionate, and adorably attractive man. I always hoped he ended up having a rewarding life full of adventure. From all I see here, it looks like he did.
Nicolle Garza-Gesin, 4/24/2019
I was Daniel's 9th grade World History teacher and the coach of the Episcopal High School Texaco Star Academic Challenge Team that Daniel was on here in Houston. Daniel always had a smile on his face, and loved learning for the sake of learning. He was interested in virtually everything we covered in class, and would frequently come in after school to discuss more about a topic. His sense of humor was infectious and he found joy in everything he did. At one academic challenge contest when Daniel (and our entire high school team) was only in the 9th grade, he correctly pointed out two errors in the questions being asked. Those questions were eliminated from the score, and our school team came in second that day against teams made up mostly of juniors and seniors. I remember the day he got his acceptance to Stanford - he was happy and came blasting into my classroom to show me, his 9th grade history teacher, his acceptance letter. I am saddened that I won't be able to chat and laugh with him again.
I never taught Daniel. But as a sponsor for the EHS class of '95, and at small school as EHS, how could you not know him? Like me, like all of us, Daniel was plain. Common. Not born with entitlement or an admission of greatness. But, he was wise. I learned that from the comments here above. He knew that the plainness of us has an invitation. That in to find planeness. That is, to find a passion for life, for what gives you joy, for exploration, and celebrate that passion in all you do. Daniel, I only learned later, love airplanes. That was his passion. His conscious decision to live beyond plainness. To see life as a gift. To soar. As such, he is an inspiration. He reminds me of Rumi's poem: “Like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument. Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” And, as he reminds me/us, to celebrate this short, wondrous, journey of vulnerability by embracing what we love, who we love. That defines us, teaches us to fly. - Scott Poteet
One of Daniel's Facebook posts.
Greetings to Dan’s Friends and Family,
As a neighbor of Dan, my dog at the time and I got to know him and his new puppy, Stella, very soon after he got her when I became her “Aunt” Patty. Someone described Dan as elusive and, to that end, our visits were short, because I didn’t want to keep him from his next project. Despite this, every Christmas for many years now, Dan gave me one of his exquisite hand-crafted ornaments of his own design. I baked and brought him his favorite cookies, oatmeal raisin and, in season, he would reciprocate by giving me a tiny carrot or tomato which he proudly grew in pots.
What a gift Dan is to all of us! Thank you, Judy and John.
Almost daily, I take my little dog for a run or walk to The Palo Alto Baylands, a wildlife and wetlands preserve on the San Francisco Bay. One of its trails parallels the runways of the City of Palo Alto Airport, where Dan’s yellow bird is parked. One morning a few days after I heard the devastating news of Dan’s sudden and unexpected death, two birds of prey caught my attention and inspired this reflection.
Reflections at The Palo Alto Baylands Farewell, Dan Parker April 28, 2019
Their screams shatter the peaceful early morning. Their black shapes eclipse the sun. Their talons clasp, at what? Air, spirit, soul, life? Their bodies spiral, earth-bound, And suddenly let go, To fly into the wild blue wonder.
PS: July 20, 2019
The 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Project
For the first time since Dan’s death, I dreamed about him. He spoke, but I don’t recall what he said and we hugged our hellos; I took this as a nudge to finally post my thoughts about his passing, just as sharply painful today as it was when it happened. Fly high, Dan, soar!
Daniel began building planes in the garage in Houston. The first plane was a Ragwing Special, and the second and third planes were planes of his own design, designed to break altitude records for light aircraft. The following sections are mainly photos. Descriptive text about each plane will be added as we uncover it in Daniel's notes.
First Plane Build - Ragwing Special
The Ragwine is small enough to be trucked. Here it is in a UHAUL ready to go from Houston TX to Compton CA.
The Ragwing progressed further in Compton CA.
The Ragwing is now in Gilroy CA
Further information on the Ragwing Special can be found at www.rogermann.org/ragwing
Second Plane Build - Altitude 1
As explained in the first Kitplanes article, Daniel was looking for a cool project. The result was the first altitude plane.