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Liberty mourns loss of board member killed in plane crash

January 21, 2012 : Liberty University News Service

Tom Coble, left, stands with Trey Falwell and Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. at the Lynchburg Airshow in May 2011.

Liberty University Board of Trustees member and alumnus Tom Coble died in a plane crash in Alabama on Friday, Jan. 20.

News reports say the crash occurred Friday evening at a small airport northeast of Birmingham, Ala. Coble was flying his L-39 fighter jet to Burlington, N.C., and crashed on departure.

Chancellor and President Jerry Falwell, Jr. said Coble will be remembered at Liberty for his work on the Board, for his support of Liberty’s School of Aeronautics and for being his father’s personal pilot. From early 1976 to mid-1979, Coble flew Liberty founder Dr. Jerry Falwell, Sr. to speaking events all over the country.

“Tom flew my father and some of Liberty’s earliest student singing groups around the country to spread the word about the new college in a World War II vintage DC-3 airplane,” Chancellor Falwell said. “I learned in 2008 that Tom had become a successful businessman and I asked him to serve on Liberty’s Board of Trustees.  He agreed and provided important leadership to the university in recent years.”

Chancellor Falwell said when his son, Trey, graduated from Liberty in May 2011, Coble attended an airshow in Lynchburg and allowed Trey to fly with him and even take the controls briefly in his fighter jet.

“It was a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience that Trey will never forget,” he said. “I have heard numerous stories about how Tom helped individuals and ministries in need. He was a family man who kept a low profile but he quietly helped others whenever he could. Tom will be greatly missed by Liberty University and by the Falwell family. Thousands of us here are praying for the Coble family.”

Coble earned his instrument, commercial and multi-engine ratings while he was a student at Liberty (then Liberty Baptist College). He graduated in 1976 with a bachelor’s degree in church history.

Dave Young, Dean of Liberty University School of Aeronautics, said he was saddened to hear of the tragedy.

“He’s a friend and has been a mentor in aviation to me and to our program,” Young said.

He said Coble spoke at the School of Aeronautics graduation in 2010 and offered the school’s Pilot of the Year a flight in his jet.

The jet was also flown in the Lynchburg Airshow in May 2011 by an airshow stunt pilot.

Coble had more than 40 years of flying experience.

Coble lived in Burlington, N.C., with his wife, Debby. He was the president of Coble Trench Safety, a construction firm headquartered in Greensboro and specializing in underground equipment and training.

Coble was the cofounder and treasurer of the Coalition of Concerned Christians Political Action Committee and Foundation located in Burlington. For 32 years, the organization has remained committed to helping elect officials who are focused on the preservation of liberty and morality.