Dunbar student who died in crash had passion for flying

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by MONIKA DIAZ / WFAA-TV

wfaa.com

Posted on January 24, 2010 at 6:34 PM

Updated Sunday, Jan 24 at 11:09 PM

FORT WORTH — Most 16-year-olds can't wait to get a driver's license, but not Eric Schultz. The Dunbar High School sophomore had his sights on the skies.

He only needed a few hours more of flying time to get his pilot's license.

"It's funny that he learned how to fly a plane before knowing how to drive a car," said Eric's father, Thurman Schultz.

For Schultz and his wife, the loss of their only son has ripped a huge hole in their hearts. They can't believe he's gone.

"Knowing that he was doing something he loved takes away that pain a bit, because that was something he loved to do," Eric's dad said.

The teenager died Saturday afternoon along with flight instructor, Greg Green, 36, when their plane crashed in a field in Ellis County.

The small aircraft took off from Dallas Executive Airport at 11:58 a.m. Twenty minutes after takeoff, it disappeared from radar.

At least three people who saw the crash tried in vain to save both victims.

The plane, A Tecnam P2002 Sierra, was leased to the Claude R. Platte Future Pilots Flight School. The program is offered at Dunbar High School and at other schools in North Texas.

The Tuskegee Airmen Dallas-Fort Worth Chapter helped set up the program at Dunbar High School, and Eric's parents say the program changed their son's life.

"He would come back home with all these flying books and manuals, FAA guidelines and stuff like that," Thurman Schultz remembered. "I could tell that this is what he wanted to do."

Schultz and his wife told News 8 that their son discovered his passion because of the program, and that he also found the confidence to chase his dreams.

The Fort Worth Independent School District is helping both the Schultz and Green families. It also plans to re-evaluate the aviation program.

"The thing I fear is that I don't want to see this program shut down because of this," Schultz said. "This program gives them [kids] an opportunity to do something."

Grief counselors will be at Dunbar High School Monday morning to help students and teachers cope with the tragedy.

"Our hearts go out to victims’ families,"  Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Melody Johnson said in a written statement. "We respectfully ask that you honor the privacy of these families in their time of grief."

The National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Aviation Administration and a representative from the plane's manufacturer are investigating the incident. An NTSB investigator will be tearing down the plane Monday to look for more clues.

The final crash report might take six months to a year to complete. A preliminary summary is expected in the next seven days.

According to information from American Airlines, the CRP Future Pilots Flight School was founded in 2008 and is dedicated to educating disadvantaged youth between eight and 18 years of age in the Dallas/Fort Worth area in aviation maintenance, piloting principles, as well as math and science.

An American Airlines news release said the flight school "is among American Airlines most important community initiatives."

E-mail mdiaz@wfaa.com

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