CEDAR CITY — Southern Utah University is mourning the loss of two aviation instructors killed in a plane crash during a routine flight Monday afternoon near Cedar City Regional Airport.
Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Alan Carver, 50, and Nathan Stoddard, 24, were about 6 miles southwest of the airport around 1 p.m. when the two-seat, single-engine Cessna 152 they were in crashed, fire and university officials said.
“I cannot adequately express the depth of sorrow I feel for this tragic loss,” said Carl Templin, dean of SUU’s School of Business and aviation program. “I am deeply saddened by the loss of my colleagues and friends. My heart goes out to their families.”
“This is an incredibly sad time," SUU President Scott L Wyatt said. "No one is ever prepared for a tragedy like this. Many of our pilots have served our country, and we appreciate the service they gave to us. We mourn with the pilots’ families, loved ones, the SUU community and city after such a loss.”
Carver was the chief fixed-wing flight instructor for SUU's aviation program. He was conducting a "routine instructor signoff with Stoddard," who was hired as a junior flight instructor, according to a statement issued by the university Tuesday.
Stoddard was hired by SUU and Upper Limit Aviation on Friday and recently moved to Cedar City from Salt Lake City after working with Keystone Aviation as a transportation agent.
“I have flown with (Stoddard) before, and he was a fine pilot,” said Neil Donahue, SUU assistant chief flight instructor. “I was truly looking forward to working with him. He was going to be great teacher.”
Carver retired from the Air Force in 2012 and started working at SUU in July 2013. He logged more than 6,000 hours of flight time, including 1,400 combat flight hours, according to the statement.
Carver is survived by his wife and four children, including one child who is currently serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Carver earned a bachelor's degree in design engineering technology from BYU and a master's of aerospace composites from Utah State.
Stoddard graduated from Syracuse High School in 2009 and earned an associate degree in business in 2013 at Lamar Community College in Lamar, Colorado.
SUU spokeswoman Ellen Treanor said the area had experienced rain, and the dry lake bed where the plane crashed was muddier than normal.
Treanor said the plane crashed about 200 yards from homes in the area.
The cause of the crash is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board. Upper Limit Aviation, an organization that provides SUU's aviation program with planes and equipment, is cooperating fully with the investigation, according to university officials.
Mike Mower, Upper Limit chief operating officer and chief rotor wing flight instructor, said its pilots get constant training to exceed Federal Aviation Administration requirements.
“Safety is our No. 1 priority," Mower said. "Everything from our maintenance department, flight operations, to dispatch have policies and procedures in place to ensure a safe training environment.”
SUU currently has 255 students in the aviation program, university officials said. Upper Limit has been in operation since 2004 and in partnership with SUU since May 2013.