Top 10 of 2014: Local pilot dies in crash

Published 11:43 am Monday, December 29, 2014

FILE PHOTO | DAILY NEWS WRIGHT FLIGHT SUPPORTER: Tom Saccio, shown with his Seawind, was a volunteer pilot for the Wright Flight program. He was killed in an airplane crash in September.

WRIGHT FLIGHT SUPPORTER: Tom Saccio, shown with his Seawind, was a volunteer pilot for the Wright Flight program. He was killed in an airplane crash in September.


The death of Tom Saccio in a fiery airplane crash is the Daily News’ No. XX story of 2014.

Saccio, a key supporter of the Wright Flight program in Beaufort County, was killed Sept. 18 when his Seawind airplane crashed near the Monroe County, Ind., airport.

Witnesses said the airplane was losing altitude and on fire just before the crash in a wooded area close to the airport, according to Saccio’s wife, Stephanie. She was in Delaware at the time of the crash.

A passenger aboard the aircraft also died, according to the Monroe County coroner’s office.

A memorial service for Saccio, who lived at Maules Point, was held in Washington at the Turnage Theater on Oct. 4.

Saccio, who was a property master in the film industry (mostly in New York), became interested in flying early in his life. That interest eventually resulted in him buying a Seawind kit and putting the seaplane together.

Saccio, in an interviews for Washington the Magazine, said that in the early 1990s, his son gave him three flying lessons as a Christmas present.

“I took those three lesson, and I just didn’t stop. I just kept right on going. … Then somewhere along the line I came up with the idea of building an airplane,” Saccio said in the interview. “Right around the time I got the airplane, the kit, I decided after working 40 years in the film industry that I was never going to get this plane built if I kept working. So, I just retired.”

Saccio began building the plane in Connecticut, but lack of space and other limitations there resulted in him moving. At first, Saccio considered buying a house at an airpark, where people live and keep their planes at their homes. Eventually, Saccio located to Maules Point, where his home and the hangar for the Seawind are about 100 yards apart.

The freedom of being able to take off and land from the waters next to his home is greatly satisfying, Saccio said. Before he built his home, he built a hangar for the Seawind.

Saccio was a volunteer pilot with the local Wright Flight program, in which fifth-graders learn the hard work pays off by studying aviation pioneers such as Orville and Wilbur Wright, who set objectives, worked hard to meet those objectives and overcame obstacles to write their names in the history books.
The focus of the Wright Flight program is the contract a student signs. As part of the contract, the student sets a goal and lists what must be done to achieve that goal, which should be challenging. The program’s preferred goal is to raise a grade in school, say from a B to an A in history or a C to a B in mathematics. Parents are encouraged to assist their children in reaching their goals.
Part of the Wright Flight program calls for students to abstain from using tobacco, drugs and alcohol. The program also provides students a second chance if they don’t meet their goals the first time around. That second chance comes during the next grading period.
Numerous Wright Flight participants are minority or disadvantaged children who probably never would have opportunities to fly in an airplane without Wright Flight.





About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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