The wreckage of a small plane sits in a pasture off of Tumblin Drive west of New Smyrna Beach on Wednesday afternoon, Feb.13, 2013.Daytona Beach News-Journal / Peter Bauer
NEW SMYRNA BEACH -- The president of a New Smyrna Beach airport group was killed Wednesday when his plane hit a tree, "disintegrated" and exploded shortly after taking off.
Paul Rooy, 56, of Daytona Beach, was flying the six-seat, twin-engine Cessna 337. He was president of the Friends of New Smyrna Beach Airport.
“He clipped one of my trees and then hit the power lines,” said Rick Chapman, 60, who saw the crash. “That plane disintegrated.”
The plane had just taken off and crashed in an open field near the city's sports complex about 1:13 p.m., said Volusia County sheriff's spokesman Gary Davidson. The plane, a 1968 model, broke apart on impact, killing Rooy, Davidson said.
No one else was on board and no one on the ground was injured, he said.
The aircraft is registered to Royalair Aviation Inc. out of Daytona Beach. Rooy is a patent attorney who headed up the Friends of New Smyrna Beach Airport, which advocates for businesses and private pilots who use the airfield that fronts U.S. 1. In recent years Rooy and the organization have been in an ongoing battle with nearby residents complaining about airplane noise.
A man at Rooy's Daytona Beach home said the family did not want to comment.
Arlen Stauffer, chairman of New Smyrna Beach Balloon & Sky Fest, said Rooy is “going to be missed very deeply by a lot of people.”
“He was involved in many organizations and always in leadership positions,” Stauffer said. “That's the kind of guy he was.”
Sandy Carter, a receptionist at the building where Rooy has an office, said she did not know Rooy well but people who did said he loved to fly.
According to Rooy's personal website, he was an airline transport pilot, multi-engine and instrument flight instructor and advanced ground instructor. His experience also included flying demonstration tours around South America.
The Volusia County Sheriff's Office is conducting a routine death investigation, while the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the cause of the crash.
Chapman said he saw the crash while standing outside with his wife as the plane went down on property near their New Smyrna Beach home.
Chapman didn't expect anyone survived the crash but still ran to where the plane hit just in case. He said he saw a man dead inside the plane.
“If there's anybody else, I didn't find them,” Chapman said.
He said there was no fire but the plane exploded on impact.
Chapman said he and his wife saw the plane getting closer and closer and knew what was about to happen.
“I think he was trying to squeeze between two trees,” Chapman said. “He missed my barn by about 100 feet.”
Rooy wrote three books about flying, including “The Skymaster and the Piranhas,” which details a trip he took with his significant other, Mary, up the Amazon River in a light twin aircraft, according to his personal website.
Wednesday's crash is the third fatal plane wreck in Volusia and Flagler counties within a year. In April 2012, a single-engine experimental plane crashed into the roof of a Publix grocery store in DeLand on International Speedway Boulevard. The pilot, Kim Presbrey, would succumb to his injuries nearly two months later. On Jan. 4, three people were killed, likely on impact, when a single-engine airplane crashed into a Palm Coast home on Utica Path.
Paul Rooy, 56, was killed Feb. 13, 2013 when his small airplane crashed on takeoff from New Smyrna Beach Municipal Airport. (Paul Rooy website / February 13, 2013)
9:01 p.m. EST, February 13, 2013
A Daytona Beach pilot, patent attorney and humanitarian died Wednesday when his small airplane crashed on takeoff from New Smyrna Beach Municipal Airport.
Paul Rooy, 56, was the sole occupant of the Cessna 337 twin-engine plane when it crashed and broke apart about 1:15 p.m. in a field near the New Smyrna Beach sports complex, the Volusia County Sheriff's Office said.
Rooy, an experienced pilot, was president and a founder of Friends of New Smyrna Beach Airport and New Smyrna Beach Balloon & Sky Fest.
"He's going to be deeply missed by many people," said Arlen Stauffer, a fellow pilot who co-founded the two groups. "He was an important part of this whole community."
A pilot and flight instructor, Rooy once worked as a sales manager for Piper Aircraft and the former Lake Aircraft.
He wrote two books about flying, The Skymaster and the Piranhas and Flying Mexico for Gringos. The former was about his flight through South America. The latter chronicled Rooy's 5,200-mile trip with his wife, Mary Lightfine, a nurse who also is a pilot.
The couple traveled in the same 1968 Cessna 337C Skymaster that crashed Wednesday, said Rhonda Walker, manager of New Smyrna Beach Municipal Airport.
Rooy and Lightfine ran an international relief organization, Volunteers Without Boundaries. He was a member of Angel Flight and Brother's Keeper, two other charities.
A mechanical engineer who received a master's degree in international management, Rooy went on to earn his law degree in 1995 from the University of Florida, his website states.
The National Transportation Safety Board was expected to arrive early Thursday to investigate the cause of the crash.
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Paul Rooy, shown in a 2009 photo at New Smyrna Beach Municipal Airport, was killed Wednesday when his Cessna 337 crashed near the airport. Rooy was president of Friends of New Smyrna Beach Airport and the plane's only occupant.News-Journal file
NEW SMYRNA BEACH -- Paul Rooy had flown his Cessna 337 into the heart of South America. He also piloted the plane when he and his wife traveled to the Caribbean islands to deliver medical supplies and find new homes for pets displaced by disasters.
“It was truly a workhorse,” Mike Holoman, a longtime friend of Rooy, said of the six-seat, twin-engine prop plane. “I mean, I've flown in the same plane halfway across the United States with him and his wife."
Federal investigators have begun their investigation to determine what caused that same small plane piloted by Rooy to crash Wednesday in a cow pasture shortly after takeoff from New Smyrna Beach Municipal Airport. Rooy was killed in the crash and the only person on board.
Shawn Etcher, air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board in Washington, D.C., said Rooy, 56, was headed west after takeoff. The pilot took a left turn and then shortly thereafter said “Mayday.”
“That was his last transmission,” Etcher said while at the crash scene Thursday.
The plane then struck a tree before hitting power lines and crashing into the field, Etcher said.
A witness on the scene, Rick Chapman, said he saw the plane hit the tree and power lines before it “disintegrated.” No one on the ground was injured.
Federal officials gathered wreckage that will be taken back with them to Washington. A preliminary NTSB report on the crash will be ready in the next five to 10 days. Plane crash investigations like this can take three months to a year to complete, Etcher said.
Rooy, a local patent attorney, was a certified engineer as well as president of the Friends of New Smyrna Beach Airport and one of the founders of the annual New Smyrna Beach Balloon & Sky Fest.
“He was very involved in the community,” said Holoman, a fellow pilot who is the treasurer for the Friends of New Smyrna Beach Airport. “He was very charitable in all that he did, not just in words but in deeds.”
That altruistic nature was evident in the humanitarian relief organization Rooy ran with his wife, Mary Lightfine, called Volunteers Without Boundaries. Holoman said the couple would travel to disaster areas and bring back pets left homeless by disasters and find them new homes in the U.S.
“They did a lot of humanitarian work, he and his wife,” said Rhonda Walker, manager of the New Smyrna Beach Municipal Airport. “I know that they flew some supplies to some other disaster areas and dropped them off.”
Walker said Rooy and other local pilots formed the Friends of New Smyrna Beach Airport in part as a response to a group of neighbors who had complained about noise from the airfield and helped try to solve the issue.
“He wanted to show the best sides of the airport, the economic side, and that every pilot isn't out to make the neighborhoods go nuts on us,” Walker said.
However, Holoman said the Friends of New Smyrna Beach Airport was mainly about keeping the airport open and thriving, especially after one of the runways had closed.
“He was all about making the airport viable, making it an economic benefit for the community,” Walker said. “He did a lot for this airport so his shoes are going to be hard to fill.”
Rooy and Lightfine took off from the New Smyrna airport two years ago in the Cessna T 337C Skymaster and flew to South America.
“They charted it as they flew on one of those messaging systems,” Walker said. “So you could know exactly where he was at any time and he would give any updates of things that they saw along the way.
“We watched him on that whole journey,” she said.
Etcher said there weren't any obvious weather issues during the short flight Wednesday — the crash was reported at 1:13 p.m. — but said it was a little “choppy.” That will be part of what investigators look at when they consider contributors to the crash including pilot error, mechanical malfunction or the environment.
Walker said the crash was the second with a fatality involving a plane that took off from New Smyrna Beach Municipal Airport since she began working there in 1998. In September 2007, 74-year-old Bruce Smith was killed when his single-engine airplane slammed into trees at the airport. He had just taken off when he radioed the control tower he was having problems with the aircraft.
Wednesday's crash was the third fatal plane wreck in Volusia and Flagler counties within a year.
Please sign the Memorial Guest Book for Paul
A loss for local aviation
I was devastated to hear that my longtime friend and fellow pilot, Paul Rooy, died in the crash of his light twin aircraft after takeoff from New Smyrna Beach Airport. Paul was larger than life: A respected attorney, an accomplished musician, a superior pilot, an author of three books and a fierce advocate for those social and civic causes in which he believed.
Paul's airplane, the twin-engine, centerline thrust Cessna 337, is considered one of the safest airplanes ever built and its loss under the circumstances is a mystery. Speculation about the accident is unwarranted, but all of us in the pilot community will be anxious to know what the National Transportation Safety Board investigation finds as probable cause. The final results will not be known for several months, but a preliminary finding should be available reasonably soon.
Paul was deeply involved in furthering the education of young men and women in middle and high school. He was a longtime participant and respected judge in MathCounts, a national program of the National Society of Professional Engineers intended to encourage students to study mathematics. Paul was also chairman of the daVinci Grand Prize award committee, which annually makes a $2,000 award to the middle or high-school student who, in the judgment of the committee, has the overall best project in the Volusia County Science Fair. His name is engraved as chairman on the most recent plaque, awarded just this January at the end of the local science fair competition.
Gina and I send our personal and most heartfelt condolences to Paul's lovely wife, Mary; his two brilliant children, David and Michelle; and his loving parents, Pastor Sidney and Mae Rooy of Jacksonville.
Dear, dear Paul — rest in peace. We miss you already.
An investigation looks over the Feb. 13 wreckage of a plane piloted by Paul Rooy, who perished in the wreck.
NEW SMYRNA BEACH — Paul Rooy was flying at an altitude of about 300 feet in his twin-engine Cessna 337 when he called out "Mayday," the last transmission received before the aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff from New Smyrna Beach Municipal Airport.
That's according to a preliminary report released Tuesday by the National Transportation Safety Board on the Feb. 13 crash that killed Rooy, 56, a local attorney and longtime pilot who was president of the Friends of New Smyrna Airport and co-founded the annual New Smyrna Beach Balloon & Sky Fest.
Once Rooy called out "Mayday," he was cleared to land the plane on any runway, according to the report. Eyewitnesses told investigators the airplane was observed in a left wing down bank when it hit a tree, power lines and then struck another tree before crashing in a cow pasture west of the airport.
"The witnesses further stated that they heard the engine producing power; however, they could not determine if both engines were operating with power," the report read.
An examination of the wreckage revealed all "major components" of the airplane were present at the crash scene, and there was fuel in the left and right wing tanks.
Rooy had not filed a flight plan, according to the report.
Mike Holoman, a longtime friend of Rooy's who has been a pilot for about 30 years, said Rooy did not need to file a flight plan because he did not have a particular destination that day.
"He was not going anywhere, he was just flying around local," he said.
A full report detailing the cause of the crash could take three months to a year to complete, Shawn Etcher, an NTSB air safety investigator, said while at the crash scene Feb. 14.
NTSB records show 13 other crashes involving Cessna T337s have been investigated by the agency in 13 years, including five with fatalities.
Holoman said he had flown many times in Rooy's Cessna T337C Skymaster and considered the aircraft "extremely safe." It's easier for a pilot to keep control of the plane during engine failure because of the position of the engines, he said. The Cessna 337's engines are in the nose and rear of the fuselage, unlike other twin-engine models where the engines are on the wings.
"You don't have the issues of torque that you do with the other type twins," he said.
Rooy had flown the Cessna to South America two years ago, taking off from New Smyrna Beach Municipal Airport. He also piloted the aircraft to deliver supplies to disaster-stricken areas including the Caribbean islands as part of a humanitarian relief organization the couple started called Volunteers Without Boundaries. Those relief efforts also included rescuing pets that had been displaced by disasters and finding them new homes in the United States.
"There was no question about his authority in that plane," Holoman said.
A memorial will be held in Rooy's honor soon at New Smyrna Beach Municipal Airport but no date has been set, Dr. Arlen Stauffer, chairman of the Balloon & Sky Fest, said Wednesday.
Stauffer said more tributes are planned for Rooy at this year's Balloon & Sky Fest, which will be April 5-7 at the airport.
Paul's web site