BARTOW, Fla. (WFLA) – Federal Aviation Administration records show that the pilot of the plane that crashed in Bartow had the necessary training to take off in foggy conditions that Christmas Eve morning.
Officials say 70-year-old John Shannon was flying his two daughters, 24-year-old Olivia Shannon and 26-year-old Victoria Shannon-Worthington, as well as Victoria’s husband, 27-year-old Peter Worthington Jr. and family friend, 32-year-old Krista Clayton.
All five were pronounced dead at the scene.
The wreckage is hard to look at and there are many questions about what happened.
“From all indications the plane was in the air and came back to the ground,” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.
Judd went on to say that, “the airport was totally socked in with fog.”
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Judd says he believed it was too foggy to take off because of the near-zero visibility that morning.
“The pilot was properly licensed to fly the type of airplane in the conditions that they were in,” said retired pilot and aviation safety expert John Cox.
FAA records show that Shannon was instrument rated which means he was trained to fly without seeing the horizon, relying only on the instruments on-board if needed.
“Very low visibility takeoffs require a lot of skill,” Cox said.
Shannon’s advance training made him certified to fly single-engine planes that could land on the ground and planes equipped for a sea landing. He was also licensed to fly multi-engine planes, including the Cessna 340 twin-engine he was flying on the morning of the crash.
It is still unclear why the plane went down, but many are wondering whether balance, the amount of fuel or engine failure had anything to do with the crash.
“The National Transportation Safety Board will do those performance calculations,” Cox said.
Friends said that Shannon took good care of his plane and was experienced enough to know what he was capable of handling.
“I know that he would never do anything to jeopardize the life of his daughters and I just have to believe that something happened,” said family friend Harley Richards.
Richard said Shannon was set to receive a master flying award in April for 50 years of accident-free flying.