Pilot killed in plane crash at Porterville airport identified as Air National Guard pilot on leave
He was working outside near the Porterville airport at the time.
“I look back, I look at the airport and between the buildings and I see it go,” he said. “As soon as it takes off, that’s where the engine shuts down and you can hear it try to turn it back on like it’s trying to restart and nothing happened.”
Rodriguez then saw the pilot of the home-built single-engine aircraft attempting to turn back to the airport.
That’s when he says he dived his nose to the ground.
“The tree line blocked him where I couldn’t see if he might have pulled it up, and he dived straight in, I saw the white smoke and I knew right away,” said he declared.
Porterville fire crews extinguished the flames.
But the pilot, identified as Lt. Col. Billy Sullivan of the 144th Fighter Wing, was pronounced dead at the scene.
As part of a statement, the 144th Fighter Wing said, “Billy was a force multiplier to anyone who knew him and was truly larger than life. His death will impact many people as he was on a mission to help and connect with everyone he knew. He thirsted for a living and wanted to share his love of aviation and his passion for adventure with everyone he met. “
On Tuesday morning, Sullivan’s body was removed from the crash site and National Transportation Safety Board investigators arrived at the scene for their investigation.
The airport has also reopened.
“After speaking to the airport manager this morning, he said that due to the aircraft’s proximity to the end of the runway, he felt comfortable with the airport opening. “said the Porterville Fire Department. Chief Bryan Cogburn.
The plan for Tuesday afternoon, according to Porterville Deputy Fire Chief Bryan Cogburn, was to move the plane’s debris from the crash site to a nearby hangar, where federal authorities could continue their investigation.
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