Spotlight Background

Cale Mortensen Kastanek

Cale canoeing at sunset.

Cale’s biography

Cale Mortensen Kastanek, was born on November 22, 1979, in Mt. Vernon, Illinois to Shirley Jean Mortensen and Kenneth Douglas Kastanek.  This 8 lb. little guy with loads of dark hair and all his toes and fingers entered the world with a scream that wouldn’t quit; just like most little babies.   But from that point on Cale was far from typical.  Cale was inquisitive and caring and had fun doing just about everything.  He enjoyed every moment of his 28 years on earth.  It seemed he lived his life in fast forward, and in doing so touched more lives with his upbeat personality and his love of life than most of us could only dream of doing!

At the age of three Cale’s mother married Jeffrey Young and the family moved to Rolla, Missouri.  Cale chose airplane wallpaper for his new bedroom and his fascination with airplanes and anything that moved began.

Cale lived in 6 different cities and 4 different states in his first 10 years. Every summer Cale traveled back and forth from Murrysville Pennsylvania to Springfield Illinois where his father lived.  He would spend all his free time in the airports writing down the names of the airlines, and pestering the pilots (much to the embarrassment of his older sister, Amanda).  These travel times and the summers spent with their father on his boat laid the foundation for a very special sibling bond between Cale and Amanda.

In addition to his sister Amanda, Cale had two younger siblings, Thomas and Darcie.  Tom and Cale shared a bedroom growing up and would fill every inch of floor space with Lego creations, including an elaborate airport.  At Christmas they decorated the house with lights and turned the driveway into a runway with tiny running lights. Darcie is very much like her big brother, Cale, and knew he would do anything for her without question.    She loved riding to school with him in the mornings blasting 311 out the windows of the Pathfinder that he drove like a racecar.

Cale pursued an eclectic assortment of interests during his childhood years which included playing the tuba, pole vaulting, performing magic shows and in school plays, water ski competitions, church mission trips, and taking everything apart to see how it worked. We never threw anything away.  Our electronic garbage was Cale’s treasure.  On family vacations he involved us all in new activities, kite flying, fishing, or exploring that “one more” ravine at Turkey Run State Park.  Cale loved every interest, challenge, and competition. And Cale was humble in his achievements; of which there were many.

Cale’s interest in flying was one passion that never wavered.  One Christmas he received flying lessons.  He was hooked and his research to find the best school to pursue this dream began. There was never a contest.  He applied for early admission to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the only school he even considered; ”Why? Well, because it’s the best!”  He didn’t even visit the school, he just knew it was where he wanted to go.

And now one must insert here that Cale was a huge sports fan, especially of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Nebraska Cornhuskers, and the Pittsburgh Penguins, and loved seeing his favorite teams in person.

One evening in January 1998 we were getting ready to attend a Penguins hockey game, with tickets for box seats.  What could make an 18-year-old fan more excited? It was as we were getting ready to go to the game that he opened his acceptance letter to ERAU!   Cale couldn’t concentrate on the game; he was too busy showing his letter to everyone.  He was bouncing off the walls, and telling everyone he was going to be a pilot! And they did listen.  His excitement was so contagious; everyone we encountered that night was thrilled for him.  Cale’s dream was to become reality.  In August 1998 he flew to Daytona Beach with his duffel bags and his water-skis.  Picture him as being excited, but slightly hesitant since he had never set foot on the campus. But that hesitancy disappeared when he walked into that dorm room and met his roommates.  The rest of his life had begun.

Cale quickly made friends his freshman year, friends that as it turns out would grow very close throughout the years.  He started flight lessons that semester and made his first solo on November 19th, 1998.  Shortly after that, he received his private pilot certificate followed by an instrument rating and commercial certificate, which allowed him to fly for hire.  After graduation, he stayed in Daytona Beach and worked toward his flight instructor rating.  He finished up in Daytona and moved to Hagerstown MD to live with Dave Rider the father of one of his best friends, Ben Rider.  Cale’s first student was Dave’s nephew and soon to be friend Matthew Giles.

Cale’s aviation career would rapidly take off from his decision to move to Hagerstown.  With the help of Dave he earned his multi-engine instructor rating followed by a type rating in a Falcon 10 Jet.  Cale became the lead flight instructor at the Rider Jet Center, the FBO he helped Build.  In the summer of 2004 Dave got a call about pilots needed to fly a Gulfstream II.  The next week he found himself in Dallas in school to learn to fly the Gulfstream with Dave and his friends Ben Rider and Matt Burch.  They all flew the gulfstream for Trident Aviation.  That job lead to another opportunity flying a brand new Hawker 800XP again with Matt.  He flew the Hawker all through Europe and Russia returning with many exciting stories of flying across the pond.

The next adventure for Cale started with another phone call for Dornier 328 pilots.  Again Cale found himself in school to fly the 32 seat charter jet.  He flew the Dornier all over the country and Caribbean for college sports teams and the U.S. Coast Guard.  He quickly upgraded to captain and was well respected by his peers at the three companies he flew the airplane for.  At the time of Cale’s passing he was flying the same Falcon 10 he first got type rated in.  Most of his days in the Falcon were spent flying back and forth to Canada for a Wilmington based bank.

In addition to his love for aviation, Cale was into racing his Honda S2000 at different track events.  Cale was a well-respected driver as well as a NASA certified track instructor.

Cale was tragically killed while racing his car at Summit Point, VA on November 10, 2008.


November 22, 1979

Mount Vernon, IL


Pittsburgh, PA


2002 alumni

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Daytona Beach, FL


November 10, 2008

Fairfax, VA

Pilot Accomplishments:

Airline Transport Pilot

3500 Hrs Total Time

Type Ratings

DA-10, G1159, HS-125, D328Jet


Steelers party. Cale with airplane.
Cale racing his car, #57. Cale mountain-biking with Sarah.

Favorite Team: The Pittsburgh Steelers

2008 NFL Champions!!!!

Favorite Car: Honda S-2000, #57

Favorite Airplane: Gulfstream II

Favorite Hobby: Mountain Biking

Landing airplane.