Woman killed in plane crash was retired teacher, passionate pilot

8:07 PM, Oct 15, 2012   |    comments
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WINTER HAVEN, Florida -- On Monday, James and Arthur Tyler wanted to be at Winter Haven Municipal Airport. They wanted to sit at the same table inside the airport's restaurant as their sister, Susanne Broadbelt, did before she was killed in a small plane crash at the airport on Sunday.

"She died doing what she loved best and she was flying, and now she's flying wrapped around the angels' wings," said James.

On Sunday, the twin brothers were at an air show, wondering how strong wind gusts were affecting the pilots. They didn't know that, at the same time, their sister was doing touch and go maneuvers in a lightsport aircraft when it hit the ground, flipped, then skidded 168 feet. Right now, investigators believe the crash may have been caused by a wind gust of up to 35 miles an hour. The man inside the aircraft with her, Gary Lawrence, was also killed.

"I asked her if she had made her bucket list and she said she was working on it and wanted to fly," James recalled. "I said 'You have a hard time finding your way around on the planet while driving, and you're going to fly?' But I was really proud of her. She got her certificate and her license. She's been a thrillseeker ever since she retired."

Broadbelt retired after working in Pasco County schools for 36 years. Then two months ago, around the same time she got her FAA sport pilot certification, she returned to the classroom as a substitute teacher, according to the school district.

"She was a very flamboyant, energetic, outgoing sister," said Arthur. "Loving, caring, a great person altogether."

To fly the lightsport aircraft that Broadbelt was in, you have to be a certified pilot, and the FAA has stricter rules than it would for an ultralight aircraft.

"[The rules are] much closer to the certified large airplane world than it has been compared to the ultralights," said Dr. Pat Anderson, professor of Aerospace Engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and the director of the Eagle Flight Research Center. "The consensus is that the safety record of these planes is not significantly different from the other categories of airplanes."

Broadbelt's family hopes this tragic crash won't stop people from following their dreams of flying.

"They are safe. It's just, sometimes, God takes you when you don't expect it," James said.

"Susanne, we love you," Arthur added. "We miss you."

According to the FAA, the National Transportation Safety Board will be handling the investigation.

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