Pilot remembered after fiery plane crash

KHOU 11's Lauren Talarico reports from Fort Bend County

ARCOLA, Texas - A plane crashed and burned at an Arcola air strip Monday morning.

Flight instructor Johnny Johnson, 68, was killed and student Thomas Nezabian, 20, was critically injured.

The crash happened around 10:20 a.m. at the Houston Southwest Airport on McKeever Road in Fort Bend County.

The single-engine, two-seater plane, a Tecnam P92 Echo Super, had just taken off when something went wrong. 

"He was unable to make a safe landing," said DPS Trooper Eric Burse. "He clipped one stationary airplane before landing on top of a third aircraft."

Two of the planes burst into flames. 

Photos: Airplane crash in Arcola

Johnson, who worked for Houston Light Sport Aviation, was pronounced dead at the scene. He had only been with the company for about a month, but reportedly had thousands of hours of flight time. 

Johnson had devoted his life to flying—a skill he was trying to pass on to another generation Monday.

"We sit and talk and visit periodically for 45 years. He's been a pilot at least for 30 years," said Vern Kirby, who has known Johnson since 1972 when they met as salesmen in Houston. "It has to be a gust of wind or something that caused it because not only was Johnny a good pilot but he was conscious. I've been in that seat next to him more times than I could count."

Johnson was also a member of the US Air Force Auxiliary squad--specifically its civil air patrol. Beyond flying, Johnson was also running for a congressional seat with the Libertarian party.

"We'd talk almost every day about the situation. He's much more a freedom fighter than I would be, but I'm officially his campaign manager," Kirby said.

Francisco Roque, who lives nearby, saw the black smoke. 

"I was hoping everybody was OK," Roque said. 

Nezabian was rushed by Life Flight to Memorial Hermann Hospital with severe burns. He was able to crawl out of the burning plane and is expected to survive.  

The FAA is investigating the cause of the crash. 


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