PLATTSBURGH — Theodore Wright was flying planes before he was old enough to drive a car.
He spent hours practicing on simulators, learning to fly with Keith Nunn at Nunn’s Aviation in Plattsburgh.
On Sept. 20, the Port Kent native’s long experience really paid off in a big way when he had to rely on training and instinct during a crash landing that could have easily killed both Ted and his passenger, Raymond Fosdick, 36.
“He chose to be a pilot at 15,” Ted’s mother, Kathleen, said in a phone interview Tuesday.
Her heart plummeted when she picked up her phone to find the U.S. Coast Guard was on the line.
“They said, ‘Your son has set off an emergency beacon,’” she recalled.
She began to panic, remembers screaming, “God, no!” over and over.
Ted, 27, who lives part of the year in Clearwater, Texas, had lifted into the sky that day intending to fly his twin-engine Beechcraft Baron from Baytown, Texas, to Sarasota, Fla.
But some 30 miles off the Louisiana coastline, the plane caught fire.
He told the Houston Chronicle on Monday that he knew there was no time for hesitation when smoke started to fill the plane’s cockpit.
“What are we going to do? Freak out and let the airplane crash and burn to death ...? You don’t have a lot of choice,” he told the newspaper.
“When there’s a fire in the cockpit and it’s filled with smoke, there’s nothing else to go by but instinct,” Kathleen echoed her son’s words.
PLANES PASSED OVER
Ted notified air-traffic controllers in Houston of the plane’s demise before cutting the electric power in an attempt to make the fire fizzle out.
He also activated the aircraft’s emergency beacon while maneuvering the melting controls for a crash landing, directly into the gulf’s blue waters.