Saturday, December 16, 2017
Public safety

Pilot dies in crash at Plant City air park

PLANT CITY — A pilot was found dead after a light aircraft crashed at Blackwater Creek Flightpark in Plant City, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said late Saturday morning.

The pilot, William Lee Phillips of Lakeland, was alone in the aircraft when it crashed at about 11:30 a.m., according to sheriff's spokesman Larry McKinnon.

Phillips, 79, circled the grass runway three times before making a hard landing that slammed the bottom of the aircraft into the ground, McKinnon said. The aircraft, a Challenger ultralight that was based at Blackwater, skidded about 50 feet along the runway and Phillips was found dead inside, according to McKinnon.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the crash, said spokesman Nicholas Worrell.

Phillips, who would have turned 80 on Monday, hadn't flown in a while, McKinnon said.

Clyde O'Donnell, who knew Phillips and helps with operations at Blackwater, declined to elaborate on the accident Saturday afternoon.

"An airplane impacted the ground and a pilot lost his life today," O'Donnell said.

Family members could not be reached.

Blackwater Creek, an ultralight and light-sport aircraft facility with a 2,300-foot runway, is on a 45-acre farm along Paul Buchman Highway, 7 miles north of Interstate 4, according to its website.

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