SPRING HILL — A 23-year-old flight instructor ferrying a single-engine plane from Fort Myers to his home state of Illinois died when the craft crashed into woods in Spring Hill Friday night, authorities said.
The light sport plane touched down at about 11:30 p.m. at the east end of Anderson Snow Road and Corporate Boulevard, which is just west of the Hernando County Airport in Spring Hill. The red-and-white plane either was on fire when it crashed or caught fire upon impact, leaving charred trees and shattered, twisting metal in the woods.
The pilot was identified as Scott T. Tezak of Minooka, Ill. The Hernando County Sheriff's Office said that Tezak flew into the Fort Myers airport about 9 p.m. Friday and was shuttling the plane back to an airport in Joliet, Ill.
Tezak was a flight instructor at the Blue Sky Aero Flying Club in Morris, Ill, for four years, according to Michael Bernier, a flight instructor there. In his spare time, Tezak jumped out of airplanes in parachutes, and was taking online aeronautical classes, Bernier said.
The 2010 Piper Sport was a client's plane that Tezak was contracted to fly from Fort Myers to the Morris Municipal Airport, Bernier said.
"He was an extreme professional," said Bernier, 24. "Not only did he have a solid knowledge base, which you have to have to be a pilot, he had flying abilities that some people are born with."
A woman who answered the phone at Tezak's home said the family was not prepared to comment Saturday night.
Hernando County Airport manager Don Silvernell said Saturday he had few details about the crash.
The plane is registered to Stone Tower LLC in Joliet, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The registry page describes it as a fixed-wing, single-engine plane with a certificate issue date of Sept. 13, 2010.
Paul Cox, a senior air safety investigator who flew in from Virginia Saturday morning to investigate the crash, said the plane, at last radio contact, had leveled off at 6,500 feet with no signals of distress.
"We are just beginning the process," Cox said of the investigation, which could take months to finish. "We've got a lot of work to do," he said.
Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.