Philip 'Zak' Margolis III, 42, pilot

Philip "Zak" Margolis died in a California copter crash. "He was happiest ... being a bird in the sky," his mother said.
Philip "Zak" Margolis died in a California copter crash. "He was happiest ... being a bird in the sky," his mother said.
Posted: May 31, 2014

Philip Isaac "Zak" Margolis III, 42, a Philadelphia native, traveler, and adventurer, died Friday, May 23, in California doing the thing he loved best - piloting a helicopter.

Officials in Ventura County said Mr. Margolis - known to everyone as Zak - died at 10:13 a.m. when the aircraft clipped some power lines and crashed onto a dry riverbed west of the Santa Paula Airport, igniting a brushfire.

The cause of the crash was under investigation by federal aviation officials.

The Oxnard, Calif., resident had rented the helicopter about 9 a.m. from a business at the Oxnard Airport and was expected to return about 10 a.m. to meet family.

"He was happiest in the last 12 months being a bird in the sky," said his mother, Lynn C. Margolis, of Philadelphia. "He lived more fully in 42 years than most people live in a lifetime."

Mr. Margolis was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Dresher, graduating from Valley Forge Military Academy as class valedictorian in 1990. He had enrolled at Columbia University as a business major but did not graduate.

Instead, he focused on the environment and learning to fly. He studied at three flight schools in Southern California. He was licensed for multiengine aircrafts, instrument navigation, and could operate a helicopter and small airplane over land and water.

The one thing he hadn't done was accrue enough hours of flying to qualify as a commercial helicopter pilot; it was toward that end that he was flying when the crash occurred.

In January, Mr. Margolis flew with his wife, Nancy Myers, in his twin-engine Beechcraft Baron almost 7,000 miles. The adventure took them down the coast of Mexico, through Honduras, the Grand Caymans and Bahamas, and back to California via Florida, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.

"It was a trip of a lifetime, enjoying new vistas, and extended family along the way," his relatives said.

His vocation was flying King Air C90s for government contract work, dropping antirabies pellets in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Vermont, and agents to deter medflies over California from 2005 to 2012. He had even started a real estate investment company in 2010.

But he thrived on his avocations - skydiving, stunt work in Disneyland, trapeze teaching, and performing for Club Med - anything that got him off the ground.

He also loved water. Each day he took his dog, Summer, a Lab mix, out in a kayak. He was raising her to become a service dog under the Canine Companions for Independence program.

Besides his wife and mother, he is survived by stepsons Wes and Luke Myers and two brothers.

A memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday, June 3, at Goldsteins' Rosenberg's Raphael-Sacks, 6410 N. Broad St., Philadelphia. Interment is private.


bcook@phillynews.com

610-313-8102

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