2 die in plane crash
By KATHRYN WEXLER and JAY CRIDLIN
Two months after assembling the single-engine RV-6A in a mechanical shop at his business, Reviere was killed along with flight instructor John Malecki when the aircraft took a nose dive into a dry dock at Port of Tampa on Sunday morning.
"It spiraled straight down like a stone," said Robert Cross, who had been pulling up anchor on his small houseboat in nearby Seaplane Basin. "There was no glide. That's what I don't understand -- it went straight down. It was horrible."
The plane had left Plant City Municipal Airport and flown to Peter O. Knight airport on Davis Islands, where Malecki climbed aboard.
Cross said the plane had taken off and made a sharp U-turn in an attempt to land on the same runway. But the plane didn't touch down because it hadn't properly lined up with the runway, he said.
Instead, it headed north, abruptly soared and banked to the right as though trying to approach the runway again, Cross said. Moments later, at 9:40 a.m., the plane crossed Seddon Channel, a narrow strip of water, and crashed near McCloskey Boulevard.
It missed an ocean liner docked in a slip just north of the dry dock, as well as storage tanks used by Amoco several hundred yards away.
Strollers on nearby Davis Islands said they heard a loud boom and saw 50-foot flames and a churning tunnel of black smoke.
The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.
There is no control tower at the small airport, so officials must rely largely on witnesses to understand what happened, said Ed Cooley, director of operations and safety for the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority.
Bruce Reviere, Scott's brother, said officials told him the pilot and instructor "tried doing a maneuver or they had a mechanical problem."
Scott Reviere, 39, was married and lived in West Tampa. He and Bruce owned A Bay Air Conditioning & Heating. He was always enamored of flight, his brother said Sunday.
"He was into model (plane) building a lot," Reviere said. "Then he built a real one, and that's what killed him."
Malecki, 59, was a resident of Town 'N Country. His wife, Pat, is a dispatcher at Peter O. Knight. He had three sons: James, 32; Craig, 30; and Matt, 26.
Malecki was building his own RV-6A, among the most popular of kit planes.
"You ask anybody, my dad was an excellent pilot," Craig Malecki said Sunday. "He was just sitting in the passenger seat this time."
Dale Johnson, who heads the local chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association and knew both victims, said a spiraling fall is typical when the RV-6A stalls at low altitudes.
"If you're not going very fast and you put the aircraft into a steep bank . . . it spirals out and you're done," Johnson said. "You bank it too far with not enough speed and virtually nobody could recover from it."
Scott Reviere got his pilot's license nine years ago, according to FAA records. For extra precaution, he hired a test pilot to fly the plane for 25 hours before he took over the controls, Bruce Reviere said.
Malecki was a professional pilot. Craig Malecki said his father was a Marine who flew an A-6 Intruder in Vietnam and won several medals, including Top Gun in 1969 and the Purple Heart. Later, he piloted commercial airplanes and worked at Peter O. Knight.
The past few years he was employed by Flight Safety International, a private instructional company in Lakeland.
His friend and flying parter, Marvin Alvarez, said Malecki and Reviere had flown together a couple of times. Alvarez said he saw them at the airport Sunday morning and they were planning to practice basic maneuvers.
"John was giving Scott additional flying time . . . just to get additional instruction," Alvarez said.
The fuel tank was three-quarters full, at 30 gallons, Alvarez said.
Bill Wade of Tampa Fire Rescue said it appeared the aircraft smacked into the dock's three-story wall, bounced on the concrete dock and exploded into flames.
Reviere was Cajun French and the second of four children. He moved to Tampa from his native Louisiana 15 years ago when times were tough, his brother said. The two men did well, and the company now employs 12 people.
Finally, he could afford his dream. An RV-6A usually costs $40,000 to $50,000, Johnson said. Bruce Reviere said his brother flew it every day.
"He was happy," Reviere said.
Flying an RV-6A, classified as an experimental plane, requires the standard private pilot's license, Johnson said. The aircraft must be registered, inspected and given a flight worthiness certificate by the FAA, all of which Reviere's plane had, according to FAA records. "Experimental aircraft in most cases are every bit as good as certificated aircraft," Johnson said.
There are a handful of RV-6As registered in the Tampa Bay area chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association, and 3,000 of the planes have been sold worldwide, Johnson said.
The families of both men said they died doing what they loved best. For Reviere, flying was ethereal.
"He said it felt like an angel going home," Bruce Reviere said.
-- Kathryn Wexler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3383.
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