Tuesday, July 18, 2006
West L.A. Attorney Robert Guilford Dies in Crash After Air Show
By TINA BAY, Staff Writer
Robert Ellis Guilford, a partner in the Los Angeles office of Baum Hedlund, has died in an airplane crash in Oregon.
The 73 year-old attorney, who resided in Santa Monica, was piloting his Hawker Hunter Mk. 58 swept-wing British Jet Fighter homeward from an air show Sunday when the single-engine jet went down in a Hillsboro, Ore. neighborhood.
Guilford’s son, Steve Guilford, told the MetNews that the plane crashed into an empty home but did not injure any bystanders in the area.
Although Guilford was sitting in the ejection seat, he chose to stay in the aircraft in an attempt to steer it out to an open field, where no one could get hurt, before ejecting out at the last moment, Steve Guilford said.
“I’m grateful no one was injured on the ground,” he remarked, adding that witnesses to the crash all view Guilford as having been incredibly brave, doing everything he could to keep the plane away from people and structures.
“My father would certainly be pleased to know that he was viewed as being heroic when the chips were down,” he said.
Guilford, who actively maintained a pilot’s license for 44 years during which he accumulated approximately 4,000 hours of flight experience, had good flying habits and extensive training in emergency procedures, according to his son, who has his own pilot’s license and flew extensively with his father over the years.
The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the cause of the accident, although Steve Guilford said the apparent reason was some kind of engine failure.
Baum Hedlund partner Paul Hedlund told the MetNews that Guilford, who specialized in aviation and accident law, was a tremendous asset to the firm, which represents plaintiffs in transportation liability and drug product liability actions.
“He was a very seasoned attorney, very, very smart and very knowledgeable in what we did, and hopefully we’ll all be remembered that way, too,” Hedlund said, adding that he would miss Guilford very much on a personal level.
“He was my oldest friend here,” he said. “When I first graduated from law school, I had no place to live, so he said I could temporarily stay at his place on his sofa, and I did that for five years. Later in life, I had an opportunity to offer him a job. It’s very difficult—you spend half your life with a person and they’re gone.”
Guilford had been a member of the State Bar since 1959.
He received his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1958, and earned a bachelor’s degree with honors, majoring in philosophy, from the University of Virginia.
As an attorney, he was listed among the Who’s Who in America, Southern California Super Lawyers, and the Aviation Counsel Magazine’s List of Recommended High Flyers, and was a member of the Lawyer-Pilots Bar Association.
As a pilot, he participated in air races and airshows for over 30 years and flew his planes all across the country. Often consulted for his aviation expertise, Guilford was qualified as pilot-in-command for various aircraft, including the F4U Corsair and Hawker Hunter, for which he was the only FAA authorized instructor.
Guilford co-founded the WarBirds of America, an international organization dedicated to the preservation of military aircraft, and served on the governing boards of many aviation organizations, including the Museum of Flying in Santa Monica.
Before going into private practice, he served for a year as an assistant U.S. attorney with the Department of Justice in Los Angeles. He joined Baum Hedlund in 1992.
In addition to his son from a previous marriage, Guilford is survived by his wife, Judy Fern.
The family will not hold a formal funeral service but is planning a memorial gathering for sometime in the next three weeks, Steve Guilford said.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company