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    Pilot did chores for flight time

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published January 6, 2002

    PALM HARBOR -- Charles J. Bishop was a familiar face around the flight school at St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport where he was learning to fly.

    The 15-year-old had been taking lessons at National Aviation Holdings Inc. for about 10 months and was eager to do any chores he could in exchange for flight time in an airplane, the company's lawyer said Saturday night.

    "This individual was very savvy, bartering time for washing and cleaning the aircraft," Mike Cronin said hours after Bishop crashed a four-seat 2000 model Cessna 172R into the 42-story Bank of America Plaza in Tampa.

    Bishop, an only child, apparently was not nearly as well known as a freshman student at East Lake High School in northeastern Pinellas County.

    Principal Clayton Snare said Bishop was a ninth-grader, but neither Snare nor his assistant principals knew the boy.

    "The only thing I can say is our thoughts and prayers go out to the family," Snare said.

    The high school will provide crisis counseling for students on Monday, he said.

    No one answered the door at Bishop's home, a townhouse in the Centergate Lansbrook Village complex just east of East Lake Road. One neighbor described Bishop as lanky, with short hair and blue eyes, who occasionally walked the family dog, seemed quiet and appeared to have a close relationship with his mother. She thought the family had lived there about a year.

    Eric Mulhall, 18, an East Lake High senior, said he had a class with Bishop and described him as a smart, quiet student who dressed "kind of preppy."

    Stephen Daries, 14, an East Lake High freshman, rode the bus with Bishop and often saw him walking the family dog, a terrier. "He was always smiling," Daries said Saturday night.

    Bishop's mother and grandmother, who were at the airport Saturday night, were unavailable for comment.

    Cronin said Bishop had been a student at the flight school since March and had logged between 6 hours and 6.2 hours of flying time. The teenager took off alone Saturday while his instructor was "occupied with other students and other responsibilities," Cronin said.

    "He was a nice young man who happened to like to fly," the aviation school's lawyer said, "and we had no indication that he would take this kind of action."

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