Pilot Says He Was A Passenger In Crash Plane


An Ohio flight instructor says the NTSB is wrong to assume that just because he was the only one aboard a plane with the proper credentials that he was the pilot in command. Matthew Sullivan, 24, of Dublin, Ohio, was sitting in the right front seat of a Bonanza when it crashed a mile short of Rock Hill/York County Airport in South Carolina in July. “I was strictly a passenger,” Sullivan told the Rock Hill Herald. There were two other pilots on board, including the owner of the plane, and both died in the crash. The owner, Dr. Bill Coulman, sat in the back and Eric Johnson, whom Sullivan understood to be an experienced ex-military pilot, was in the left seat. But it was an IFR flight and only Sullivan held the instrument rating. He’s also an instructor. And the story could be much more complicated. In a letter to the NTSB, quoted in the Herald, Sullivan said he had no idea he was the only one with an instrument ticket and he wasn’t acting as an instructor. “Dr. Coulman owned the plane, filed the flight plan and made the decision as to who would fly the aircraft,” Sullivan wrote. “Mr. Johnson actually flew the plane knowing he did not have the certification or authority to do so. It would be an injustice to blame me (as an invited guest) for their errors.” The crash had nothing to do with the weather. Fuel mismanagement led to a loss of power, according to the NTSB. The question of who was flying is, of course, important in determining liability and could have an impact on Sullivan’s future flying career.