We sadly inform you that Elgin Wells, our first artist ambassador, died on April 25th, 2018, while performing as an aerobatic pilot in China. We can hardly express our grief over the loss, and for the loss felt by his family and other friends. Elgin visited just before his trip to pick up some extra WiC products; his excitement on that day leaves no doubt that he died doing what he loved.
Elgin told us about his preparation for the trip to China. His plane was dismantled and shipped in a container, where his team reassembled it. Once there, he would perform in aerial shows and train Chinese aerobatic pilots to put on their own shows. Elgin didn’t expect to make a bunch of money; he didn’t do this to cash in on his talents. He went to entertain, to teach, and to engage with people. That’s what he was about.
Elgin was not normal. He played over fifteen instruments; if it made noise when you pluck it, blow into it, or bang on it, Elgin could make it sing. Although he was a successful musician, teaching got him really excited. One day, he showed up to test a new WiC product with his violin, and I asked him to show me how to play. He was so encouraging toward my squeaks and squawks that I was ready to sign up for lessons.
Elgin also talked to Paul and me about building instruments. Elgin has built violins and violas out of various types of wood and, more recently, out of carbon fiber. He described the technique of setting up a violin so the body resonates properly and detailed the tonal qualities of different wood. Then he shifted to the process employed to layer and shape carbon fiber. All of this while playing one of the wooden violins he built.
The conversation turned toward aerobatic flying. Elgin has performed in many aerobatic airshows in his plane, “Starjammer”, which he designed and built. His website blares, “The World’s ONLY aircraft of its kind, Starjammer incorporates 250+ super-bright LEDs, a 4,000 watt amplifier and onboard loudspeakers.” Elgin customized the aircraft himself. Previously, Elgin had asked about the feasibility of controlling LEDs and music on the ground from the plane by transmitting DTMF tones (the tones pushbutton telephones make) using the WiC wireless system. If you’re thinking, “Um, what?”, well, so were we. It is completely feasible, and Elgin went ahead and did it. With an air-to-ground, line-of-sight wireless connection, you get about five times the distance spec (500 feet) that we quote. So Elgin was flying around controlling music and lights choreographed with his acrobatics from half a mile away. I bet he looked like a five-year-old on Christmas morning.
Elgin fascinated, amazed, and taught, all in the same afternoon. He showed his endless passion for music and flying whenever we saw him. There is no doubt Elgin was having fun doing what he loved. We will miss him profoundly.