Two people have died in a plane crash in Daytona Beach, Florida. The Piper PA-28 reportedly crashed shortly after takeoff on April 4, in the mid-morning, while involved in routine training. Both people on board the plane died in the accident, which officials suggest may have been caused by a wing falling off the plane. Investigators will continue to look into what caused the plane to crash.
Student Pilot and Instructor Killed during Takeoff and Landing Practice
Killed in the crash were Zach Capra, a student pilot from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and John S. Azma, a pilot examiner. Tragically, the flight was meant to be Capra’s last before he earned his pilot’s license and began living his dream as a commercial airline pilot. The plane was reportedly involved in practicing takeoffs and landings when a wing fell off, sending the aircraft and its occupants hurtling to the ground.
The plane took off from Daytona Beach International Airport and went down shortly after, in a field near the Daytona Flea and Farmers Market and the Daytona International Speedway.
“It could’ve been a lot worse. Fortunately for us, the plane crashed in a field…a quarter of a mile to the north and you’re in the flea market and the campground,” said Sheriff Mike Chitwood.
No one in the plane issued a distress call before it crashed at Tomoka Farms Road and Bellevue Avenue.
Crash Possibly Caused by Piper Plane Losing Wing
While investigators look into what caused the fatal small plane accident, witnesses reportedly told officials that one of the wings fell off the plane. That wing was found on the opposite side of the road and about 150 to 200 yards away from the fuselage.
The Piper PA-28, also sometimes referred to as a Piper Arrow, was owned by Embry-Riddle. The single-engine aircraft crashed during a cruise climb shortly after it took off. Among the witnesses who reported seeing the wing fall off are air traffic controllers, who said after the wing fell off the plane, the plane spun out of control and crashed.
“The wing flew off, and all of a sudden, we thought it was going to hit us, and then all of a sudden, it just fell, and the airplane went straight down,” said an anonymous eyewitness.
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are examining the plane’s maintenance records for signs of negligence and noted that a wing detaching from an aircraft while in flight is rare. According to reports, there are two Special Airworthiness Information Bulletins-CE-11-13 and CE-11-12R1, which discuss the possibility of corrosion on a wing rear spar.
“Something is horribly wrong when inspections don’t reveal the possibility of a wing falling off!” said aviation attorney Ronald Goldman of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman.
Wreckage from the plane will be taken to Jacksonville for a more in-depth analysis. A preliminary report into the crash could be released by mid-April, but a full report will likely take more than a year.
Victims of Florida Small Plane Crash Remembered by Loved Ones
Before studying to get his pilot’s license, 25-year-old Capra spent four years in the Navy on the USS Harry S. Truman. He was scheduled to graduate from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University on May 7 and planned on moving to Atlanta or Alaska to work as a pilot.
“That was his dream and his passion,” Capra’s father, John Capra, said. “He wanted to travel the world. He was just starting his adventure.”
Capra was also a member of Embry-Riddle’s Student Veterans Organization. Embry-Riddle President P. Barry Butler said Capra was known for often smiling and being encouraging of those around him. Capra’s father, meanwhile, said Capra inspired and pushed people to follow their dreams.
Azma was a pilot examiner designated by the FAA and founder of Azma Flt Inc. He leaves behind a wife and two sons. Butler remembered Azma as being well-known and respected by his colleagues at Embry-Riddle.
“John had at least 20 years of flight experience and nearly a dozen unique jet aircraft-type ratings,” Butler said in a written statement. “His proficiencies encompassed many aircraft, from single-engine piston aircraft to multi-engine turbine powered jets. He was known for his calm professionalism in the cockpit.”
In his statement, Butler went on to offer his condolences to anyone affected by the crash, noting that everyone at Embry-Riddle was “shocked and devastated by this tragedy.”