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**Monetary Donations to help offset Jason's medical expenses can be mailed to: The Jason Flood Foundation, 51 Waterfront Way Hammonton, NJ 08037
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Posted: Wednesday, August 3, 2011 8:30 pm
Jason Flood is considered a conscientious pilot.
On the ground, he has been known to inspect his red-and-white Pitts Special competition plane repeatedly before taking off. In the air, he executed precise movements that only created the illusion of danger for spectators nationwide.
Friends and fellow aviators say Flood, who is in critical condition after the plane he was piloting crashed Tuesday, grew up around airplanes, but he is not a daredevil. Having grown up surrounded by adults who shared his singular passion, Flood was an “old soul” at 20, said David Crescenzo, a Hammonton pilot.
“From what I’ve known of him, he’s not a risk taker. He’s not your typical kid out partying — he hangs around a bunch of adults and flies in his spare time,” Crescenzo said. “As with anything, aerobatics is not a forgiving sport and he respects that. He doesn’t take any shortcuts.”
But on Tuesday afternoon, as he was attempting to pick up a banner from a grassy airfield off Steelmanville Road, police say Flood, of Franklin Township, lost control or had a mechanical problem with the single-engine plane he was piloting. It crashed in an area of dense brush about 3 p.m.
After emergency crews spent 40 minutes trying to free Flood from the wreckage, using the “Jaws of Life,” he was flown to AtlantiCare Regional Medicare Center, City Campus. A spokesperson for Cooper University Medical Center, where he was transported Wednesday morning, said he was listed in critical condition.
As news spread in advance of this weekend’s Kathy Jaffe Challenge — where Flood was set to compete against more than 35 veteran pilots — his friends and admirers gathered at the Hammonton Municipal Airport. The challenge is named for a Maplewood pilot who died in a 1999 accident.
Flood’s father, Joseph, owns Jenny Aviation, an airplane-restoration and repair shop adjacent to the airport in Hammonton. Crescenzo said Jason Flood, who was born into a family of aviators, is an instinctive pilot, who exhibited a “true knack and gift for flying airplanes.”
“I think everyone in that family flies, but Jason was the most passionate and most talented of all of them,” he said.
Crescenzo said Jason Flood finished second in the International Aerobatic Club’s northeast regional competitions last year and placed on the national leader board. Flood has been a regular on the air show circuit since the age of 18, performing breath-taking aerial stunts while he was still a student at Delsea Regional High School.
“He was very well-groomed for what he did and very conscious about safety,” Schultz said. “I didn’t worry about him when he flew. Other pilots in show business, I might have, but I didn’t with him.”
When most pilots would check something three times, Schultz said Flood could be counted on to check it a fourth time.
Bill Finnigan, an Annapolis, Md.-based flight instructor, trained Flood for more than three years and signed off on his first “low-level waiver,” an annual certification through the International Council of Air Shows and the FAA for air show pilots. That process includes an extensive oral test and flight evaluation, he said.
“He was probably one of the most outstanding young pilots I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been doing this over 40 years,” said Finnigan. “It’s a tragic loss to see him injured like this.”
Crescenzo said Flood has been interested in aviation since his childhood, when his father would take him to the airport to pilot radio-controlled airplanes. Flood was involved with his father’s airplane restoration business from the time he was 12, and at 16, he took his first solo flight, Crescenzo said.
He said Flood received a Student Tuition Assistance Reward Scholarship in 2009 to study aviation at Mercer County Community College. Flood hopes to be a commercial pilot in some capacity, he said.
“If it has wings and a propeller, that’s what he wants to do,” he said.
Outside of school, Crescenzo said Flood works part-time refueling planes at local airports and, this year, took up flying banners for a friend’s new business. All of Flood’s spare time, he said, is spent practicing for air shows and competitions.
“So he’s involved in aviation even when he’s not in aviation,” he said.
Since word of Flood’s accident got out, Crescenzo said the IAC has received an outpouring of phone and e-mail messages in support of the young pilot.
Jason suffered multiple broken bones and internal injuries in the crash and he will require multiple surgeries.
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