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Daytona Beach News-Journal (FL)

September 9, 1998

Author: Brendan Smith, Staff Writer

“The crash spread burning wreckage across the main runway only minutes after the last Delta flight arrived, said air traffic manager Burt Willis. No flights were delayed Monday because another runway was available.”After drinking with friends and writing a six-page suicide note, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University flight instructor Michael Nawrocki crashed a stolen plane Sunday night at Daytona Beach International Airport, authorities said.

When an air traffic controller told Nawrocki he was flying high on his approach, Nawrocki radioed back: “This will be my final landing.”

Nawrocki’s death in the fiery crash of a twin-engine Piper Seminole at 11:22 p.m. Sunday was ruled a suicide Tuesday after an investigation by airport police, a sheriff’s investigator and the Medical Examiner’s Office.

The plane, valued at $297,000, was owned by Embry-Riddle where Nawrocki accompanied students on training flights. Nawrocki didn’t log the plane out or obtain permission from Embry-Riddle for the flight.

This pilot climbed the fence and went straight to the aircraft and took it out,” said airport Police Chief Bob Grim. “There’s a question about his ability to even be (flying) the plane.”

Nawrocki, 26, may have been intoxicated during his 18-minute flight before crashing in a sharp descent on the west end of the main runway. Friends told a sheriff’s investigator they had to pull Nawrocki out of a bar Sunday night because he was drunk, Grim said.

Nawrocki was an Embry-Riddle graduate employed as a flight instructor since March 1997. His roommate found Nawrocki’s suicide note Monday in his Daytona Beach apartment, Grim said.

In the note, Nawrocki, who was taking antidepressants, wrote he was stupid and was tired of being sick and fat,” Grim said.

The crash spread burning wreckage across the main runway only minutes after the last Delta flight arrived, said air traffic manager Burt Willis. No flights were delayed Monday because another runway was available.

The National Transportation Safety Board also is investigating the crash but probably won’t release its findings for six months.

Nawrocki climbed a fence at Embry-Riddle to obtain unauthorized access to a Piper Seminole parked on the school’s flight ramp next to the airport, said Embry-Riddle spokeswoman Lisa Ledewitz.

Access to the school’s planes is restricted after 10:30 p.m. so Nawrocki’s key wouldn’t open the gate since he didn’t have clearance, Ledewitz said. However, the plane does not require a key to start.

Nawrocki had no previous reports of unauthorized flights or other disciplinary problems. The university doesn’t plan to make any changes in security of its airplanes, which are parked outdoors on the flight ramp, Ledewitz said.

“He scaled the fence,” Ledewitz said. “If someone is determined to get through and steal a plane, then they can do it.”

After clearing the flight with the tower, Nawrocki flew east and then north along the coastline for about 10 miles before returning to the airport, said Willis. Nawrocki never indicated any mechanical problems with the aircraft before the crash.

Sebastian Kalicinski, Nawrocki’s roommate, said Nawrocki came home about 10 p.m. Sunday and then left at 10:35 p.m., saying he was going for a walk. Nawrocki didn’t seem distraught about anything, Kalicinski said Tuesday.

“He was probably one of the nicest guys you could meet, very, very giving,” said Kalicinski, 25. “He always was able to reach out a hand to anyone who needed help.”

Kalicinski learned of the plane crash Monday morning in a phone call from a school official before he found the suicide note in Nawrocki’s room.

Counseling is available on campus for students or fellow employees upset by Nawrocki’s death. A memorial service has been scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Thursday on campus with the location to be announced, Ledewitz said.

Nawrocki, who was from Smithtown, N.Y., was single and had no family locally. His mother and brother in New York were notified of his death Monday.