Pilot was FedEx worker, dad, veteran - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Lori Brown

Pilot was FedEx worker, dad, veteran

48-year-old FedEx pilot Ward Severts of Boise, Idaho, died Saturday when his small plane crashed in a field south of Rossville, Tennessee. Severts was married with four children, and recently returned from serving in the war in Afghanistan.

A FedEx spokesperson said Severts, a first officer who sat next to the captain, started working for the company 2.5 years ago. She said: "We are shocked and saddened to learn of the death of Ward Severts. Our deepest sympathies go out to his family, fellow pilots and his friends over this tragic loss."

Severts' rented Cessna took off from Olive Branch Airport and went down around 2:30 p.m. Saturday in a remote area near Knox Road and Stinson Road.

The area is so remote that National Transportation Safety Board investigators have been unable to find anyone who witnessed the actual crash.

Local resident Patricia Clark says she heard the crash from a distance, but didn't realize what it was. "I heard a thump when I was walking my hunting dogs, then I saw a helicopter."

NTSB Senior Air Safety Investigator Brian Rayner says authorities discovered the crash after receiving a "mayday" call from the plane.

Severts flew planes for a living, and he took a written exam before renting the single-engine plane from Vectair USA.

Severts also took the plane out on a check flight with an instructor just hours before taking off on his own.

Rayner says there are numerous reasons why a professional pilot would take a check flight. "He might be experienced in a different type of airplane, or it could be the pilot himself saying 'I haven't flown one of these. I usually fly X but haven't flown Y in a long time.'"

Rayner says Severts demonstrated proficiency and comfort with the plane during his check flight.

"He demonstrated takeoffs, landings, aerial maneuvers to include steep turns and stalls. He did five landings back at the airport," said Rayner.

The NTSB says in order to determine the cause of this crash -- which could take a year -- they will investigate the pilot's experience, examine wreckage, review the plane's maintenance records and look into weather and air traffic conditions at the time of the accident.

Click here to view a slideshow of images from the scene of the crash.

Click here to e-mail Lori Brown. 

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