APPLE CREEK — The pilots in the Stoltzfus family do not use the word “dangerous.”

“We use the word 'high-risk,’ ” said Ken Stoltzfus Sr., whose son Brian, 55, was piloting the DC-3 that crashed Monday morning outside Kidron, killing him and co-pilot Curtis Wilkerson, 56.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol turned its initial investigation of the crash over to officials from the Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday afternoon. But the National Transportation Safety Board won’t be able to begin its investigation until the shutdown ends, a spokesperson said Tuesday. The NTSB is responsible for investigating and determining the probable cause of every civil aviation accident in the United States.

The crash came close to home, just a stone's throw from Stoltzfus Airfield and Preferred Airparts, the business started by the Stoltzfus family in 1982. Brian Stoltzfus had spent much of his time in the air from Wayne County, making trans-Atlantic flights as a missionary aviator.

In fact, Ken Stoltzfus said, his son and daughter-in-law Sandi, “shared the vision for serving the world's most needy with every resource God entrusted to them.” That vision led to the couple spending the better part of 21 years serving with Samaritan's Purse in East Africa.

“Most of Brian's flying there was in Sudan/South Sudan,” his father said. “In addition to the regular flights of people and supplies in support of Samaritan's Purse's multifaceted work, his sense of call, and of 'God with me,’ led him to accept risky flights that were needed to evacuate both expats and nationals in conflict areas when others were reluctant to go.”

Brian Stoltzfus and Wilkerson both were veteran pilots and certified aviation mechanics who had flown in support of Africa Inland Mission, which is primarily a church-planting mission that goes into some of the continent's hardest-to-reach areas. Wilkerson, according to his obituary, “dedicated his life to serve the Lord through mission aviation and most recently through his employment as a corporate pilot for the Kenan Advantage Group,” which is based in Jackson Township.

Wilkerson was a member of North Life Baptist Church in Wooster but had spent years in the mission field. “He had a real heart for missions,” said Pastor Harley Snode, “and that merged with his heart for aviation.” In fact, Snode said, the plane the two men were piloting Monday was to have been a part of some new initiatives they were exploring through Samaritan's Purse.

For Brian Stoltzfus, flying started early, with his first solo flight on his 16th birthday in the family's 1946 Piper Cub, which now is owned by his brother and Preferred Airparts part owner Mark Stoltzfus. “After that, you could hardly keep him on the ground,” said Ken Stoltzfus, who taught his son the ropes much in the same way his father, Chris Stoltzfus, had taught him.

Brian Stoltzfus also was a flight instructor, and his father said he delighted in being able to train others to fly in and out of airstrips in Africa “that most U.S. pilots wouldn't consider possible.”

Still, Ken Stoltzfus emphasized, his son was no daredevil but was “thoughtful and deliberate” in his work. Until Monday's incident, Brian Stoltzfus had 10,000 accident-free hours in the air as a pilot for planes both large and small. And he logged 5,000 hours in the DC-3, much of that in Africa.

Snode said Wilkerson kept a low-profile, but “had a quiet strength and presence about him and was just a pleasure to be around.”

Both men leave wives, children, grandchildren, extended families and many friends. Wilkerson's funeral is scheduled for Friday; Stoltzfus' funeral will be Saturday.

“If it were not for our absolute confidence in his presence with Jesus,” Ken Stoltzfus said of his son, “we would be devastated.”