According to his mother, 17-year-old student pilot Jordan Smith had his own key and access to the security code provided by the owner of a Piper Twin Comanche in Jasper, Alabama. But on the night of New Year’s Day, the teen, who did not have a pilot’s license, apparently decided to take two friends for a ride in the light twin, crashing less than a mile from the airport and killing all on board.
His mother said he left the house around 6 p.m., and she last spoke with him at around 10 o’clock. She got a call shortly thereafter from one of Jordan’s friends who had heard about a plane crash.
Edwin Banks, the airport manager at Walker County Airport in Jasper, said the weather at the time of the crash was overcast with low ceilings, and the twin crashed into a swampy wooded area on a nearby farm.
In early news reports, law enforcement officials said that it appeared Smith had stolen the airplane and was “sort of joyriding it.” Sherrie Smith later spoke with the Associated Press to clarify that her son was close to receiving his private license, and had flown the Twin Comanche “many times before.”
Even though he was only a sophomore in high school, Smith had already earned a scholarship to an aviation program at Wallace State Community College, according to his mother. Her husband, an Alabama state trooper, is currently on active duty with his National Guard unit in Afghanistan.
Margaret Swann, who owned the property on which the airplane crashed, said she was used to seeing planes overhead in the landing pattern. “It’s just three kids making a wrong decision,” she said.