Eight middle-management executives and engineers from Fairchild Industries, a large aerospace and communications firm based in Montgomery County, were aboard the ill-fated Air Florida Flight 90 from Washington to Tampa that crashed into the Potomac River on Wednesday.
One of the Fairchild officials, purchasing supervisor Bert Hamilton of Gaithersburg, was among the survivors. The others were presumed dead.
The Fairchild team -- all area residents -- was headed to Tampa to review facilities of a potential subcontractor or supplier, reportedly the Honeywell Corp. Fairchild spokesman Charles Hewitt declined to discuss the nature of the business trip, saying it was "confidential."
With more than 18,000 workers at plants in various states and annual revenues of more than $1 billion, Fairchild is one of the Washington area's largest corporations. A major current project has been production of the A10 jet fighter for the Air Force at Hagerstown and on Long Island, for which spending recently was cut back by the Reagan administration.
The eight Fairchild officials all worked for the company's space and electronics division based in Germantown, which has specialized in satellite technology, space and communications.
Speaking for the company, Hewitt said Fairchild is "deeply shocked and grieved at the deaths of our fellow employes and friends." The company has contacted families of the victims and "will do all we can to help," he added.
Employes at the Germantown plant were informed of the identities of the victims when they came to work early yesterday. Secretaries passed along the word that seven fellow workers had died and that one was in the hospital. Employes were given a choice of going home if they wanted, but most stayed and talked to each other.
One worker, Audrey Baker, described work in Germantown yesterday as a great many people sitting around, crying and talking about the good times. "This is like losing someone in your own family," she said. "It's very hard to deal with."
Colleague Velma Cooper said she knew two of the victims -- Theodore H. Smolen of Gaithersburg, a manager of quality control, and Eric Kauffman of Walkersville, a senior management engineer. "It's really sad. Eric always had a smile on his face," she said.
Another worker, Terri Gastley, said: "I worked with Joe Carluccio. He was on outgoing person, very friendly. We came into work this morning and it was just shock." Carluccio was manager of production control for the division and a resident of Gaithersburg.
The other Fairchild employes on the plane were Besnon Levinson of Germantown, a test engineering associate; Robert Laudini of Gaithersburg, director of procurement; Robert Essary of Gaithersburg, a senior program manager; and Robert Trexler of Middletown, Md., manager of test operations.
"They were basically very big people with Fairchild," said fellow worker Charles MacNeely. "I worked with Joe and knew Eric and Ted. It's quite a shock. I found out last night. The whole thing seems unreal, especially when you know them. They were all professionals."
Hewitt said Fairchild had no policy, as some other large corporations do, that requires members of groups to travel on separate flights.
Contributing to this story was Washington Post staff writer Michel McQueen.