Passenger reflects on previous flight after Sunday's fatal crash


Firefighters were able to remove two large pieces of wreckage lodged in a home on Iowa street in South Bend Tuesday, including the plane's fuselage. It was a big step toward figuring out what went wrong when the jet crashed into three homes on the 1600 Block of Iowa Street Sunday. The city says getting life back to normal for the people who live in the neighborhood is a priority.

For one man, who flew on the same plane, with the same pilots, nearly two weeks before the crash, however, "normal" will never quite be the same again.

"The surreal part for me is that some nine days later [after I flew with them,] Wes and Steve perished in that plane," said Bill Courtney, subject of the 2011 Academy-Award winning documentary "Undefeated," about a Memphis High School football team that rose above challenges during the 2009 season to become a successful team.

Courtney met Steve Davis, one of the pilots killed in Sunday's crash about eight months ago. Davis, who was Oklahoma's starting quarterback when it won back-to-back national championships in the 1970s was inducted into the Orange Bowl Hall of Fame in 2007.

Courtney and Davis quickly became friends.

"He's the kind of guy that had enough exposure and notoriety that he could walk around with some flair and sense of arrogance, and he was such the opposite. He believed in using his notoriety in sports to have a conversation about greater needs in our society and greater needs of service," said Courtney.

Davis had arranged for Courtney to fly from Memphis to Tulsa and back on Wes Caves' plane on March 5. Althought some news reports said that Courtney's flight on March 5 also experienced mechanical difficulties, landing, Courtney said that is not true. Courtney said the pilots that day were late about 35 minutes picking him up, because it was raining very heavily that day, and the weather caused them to have to make more than one attempt to land. He said Caves was able to bring the flight in successfully to pick him up in Memphis .

"When they came into the FBO after landing, and some people from the FBO just kind of--I mean it wasn't like a big deal--just went up and patted him on the back and said, 'Hey man, you handled that well."

Courtney said Caves' skills and experience as a pilot were apparent to him during that trip.

"I will tell you I've been on many planes before. He was a pro," said Courtney. "And I would be shocked if after the investigation they didn't find out that man did everything he could to get that plane safely on the ground."

Although a lot of media coverage has centered around the crash and what mechanical issues might've caused it, Courtney said that's not what the story is about for him.

"To me, this is about the tragic loss of two really good guys," said Courtney.


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