Rob Sherman Dies in a Plane Crash

Rob Sherman

Rob Sherman, one of the most prominent atheists in Illinois, had one more big passion beside the fight for the separation of church and state and it was aviation. He and his wife, Celeste, had recently moved from Buffalo Grove to a home near Poplar Grove Airport with its own hangar and taxiway.

A passer-by called 911 at 7:27 a.m. on December 10 to report the plane wreckage in a farm field off Meyer Road. Marengo firefighters found the single victim, a man, who was pronounced dead at the scene at 7:53 a.m. McHenry County authorities were unable to positively identify the remains until Monday. Rob Sherman, 63, was flying the plane, a Zenair Zodiac CH-601 XL. Between 2006 and April 2009, have been six instances, four in the United States and two in Europe, in which a Zodiac CH-601 XL broke apart in midair.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) completed an in-depth review of the CH601 XL and 650 and issued a report entitled Zodiac CH601 XL Airplane Special Review Team Report January 2010. The FAA concluded:

“FAA review of the in-flight failures did not indicate a single root cause, but instead implicated the potential combination of several design and operation aspects. Our preliminary assessments focused on the strength and stability of the wing structure. Further analysis during the special review found the loads the manufacturer used to design the structure do not meet the design standards for a 1,320 lb (600 kg) airplane. Static load test data verifies our conclusion. The special review also identified issues with the airplane’s flutter characteristics, stick force gradients, airspeed calibration, and operating limitations.”

The FAA also issued a bulletin strongly recommending that all owners and operators of Zodiac CH-601XL and CH-650 aircraft comply with a safety directive from the manufacturer. Manufactured planes that didn't get the safety fix were effectively prohibited from flight. Sherman was active member of an Experimental Aircraft Association's local chapter board and had worked with Young Eagles programs for youth interested in aviation.

David Silverman, president of American Atheists Inc. said that Rob was much known as an activist who was a proud fighter for religious freedom and the separation of church and state. “He loved that plane and loved flying it,” he added.

Sherman was an activist who was fighting against system and he was trying to change the global situation, starting with the local ones. He railed against a blessing at the end of a school choir performance and a wooden cross on a church at a Naperville-owned historic village. Sherman ran for Congress for the Green Party on a platform appealing to secular voters, vowing to eliminate the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance and remove "In God We Trust" from U.S. currency. In a photo on his website, Sherman is pictured next to Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein and is wearing an airbrushed T-shirt with his likeness on a penny inscribed "In Rob We Trust." This example shows his way of coping with problems, not with anger but with a dose of humor.

Photo Credits: Chicago Sun-Times

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