After a day test-flying new jetliners for the Federal Aviation Administration, or navigating his way through dense technical material, Howard Berkely "Berk" Greene would unwind in front of his personal computer by sharing his expertise with the aviation community.
Mr. Greene, 54, of Kirkland, died Tuesday. Within hours, the news spread around the world via computer bulletin boards.
Condolences came in from fellow pilots and close friends like Ken Korshin: "Berk was the ultimate source of technical information for me and others. He was gentle in his correction of my errors, and his facts were just that."
The bulk of the messages, however, came from those who knew Mr. Greene only from his bulletin-board postings.
"Like so many others here, I never met Berk (only exchanged one message with him that I can recall) and yet I feel I have lost a good friend," wrote Chris Wright. "I'm only a student pilot, but I know absolutely he would never have treated me as an `only' anything."
Wright programmed his computer to automatically download any message on any topic signed "Berk."
Such was Mr. Greene's presence on aviation bulletin boards that in 1991, when he was emerging as the FAA's expert on new-generation Boeing and Airbus jetliners, he was humorously recognized for posting the most messages. His "reward:" He had to post his autobiography.
The rambling essay began: "Born 1940 and raised on a tobacco farm in central Kentucky. My dad was an aviation enthusiast, but never a pilot. He first flew about 1922 in a barnstormer's Jenny."
Mr. Greene and his oldest brother, David, became pilots. Mr. Greene graduated from the Air Force ROTC program at Purdue University in 1963 and was accepted to the pilot-training program at Williams Air Force Base in Arizona. He went on to become a B-52 bomber commander.
Mr. Greene left the Air Force in 1970 and joined the FAA as a test pilot based in Atlanta. In 1981, he moved to Seattle and helped certify the Boeing 767.
In succeeding years he was chief FAA project pilot for the 737-300, 747-400, EMB-120, ATR-42 and Airbus A330/A340. His most recent assignment was chief project pilot for the new, computer-controlled Boeing 777.
In response to hundreds of messages of condolence, Mr. Greene's family reciprocated, fittingly, via a computer posting by daughter Mary Anne, who wrote of her father:
"Berk had many passions in life: his family, flying, computers, traveling and living. He was a vibrant man whose passion for flying and being in the sky will surpass his time here with those who love him. Now his spirit will continue to soar with the planes and angels, just as once he did with his fellow pilots."
Mr. Greene is survived by his wife, Margaret, daughters Kathleen Greene of Kirkland and Mary Ann Greene of Tucson, Ariz., and two brothers, David and Lewis of Mount Sterling, Ky.
A funeral service was scheduled yesterday in Mount Sterling for the family. A memorial service will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday
at the Boeing Customer Service Training Center Building 25-01, 1301 S.W. 16th St. in Renton at the former Longacres racetrack.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Mr. Greene's name to the Society of Experimental Test Pilots scholarship fund.