CAPTAIN Peter Waxtan, the American pilot who flew the ill-fated DANA plane last Sunday, was on his last flight and last day in Nigeria before returning to his country, friends and former colleagues have said.
A former pilot for Miramar-based Spirit Airlines, Waxtan resumed work with Dana Air in March 2012, Oscar Wason, the airline’s director of operations said.
In all, Waxtan had flown Dana planes for 30 days and was off duty for 15 days, Pat Squires, a pilot who worked with him for 15 years, told the Sun Sentinel newspaper in the United States.
Waxtan was to return on Sunday, June 3, the same day the DANA flight 992 crashed in Lagos, killing 153 people on board and at least 10 others on the ground.
Squire said that Waxtan was eager to return to the US and spend time with Lisa, his fiancée. “He spent as much time as he could get with her.”
According to Squire, “The 55-year-old pilot was to have arrived his Fort Lauderdale home on Wednesday, June 6.”
The American pilot worked at Spirit from 1997 to 2009 before his contract and that of Squires, his colleague, were terminated during union negotiations with the airline.
“It (termination) was a political thing,” Squires said, which occurred during union negotiations with the airline.Both men then flew for Falcon Air Express, a Miami-based charter service, which they departed last year.
Waxtan later joined DANA Air, where he worked 30 days on and 15 off, Squires said.
“(Last) Sunday was supposed to be his last day in the rotation in Nigeria,” he said.
Flight 992 was few kilometres on its final approach to the Lagos airport when Waxtan declared an emergency. The jetliner crashed into a two-storey railway building, hitting the ground tail first and exploding in flames.
Squires described his friend as a “consummate professional at flying. He was the best MD-80 captain I’ve ever seen.”
He said crash photos showing Flight 992 on the ground with it nose up indicates that Waxtan was trying to keep it in the air right until the end.
“He did everything he could to save that aircraft. In the end, if he knew it was going down, he did everything he could to minimise the amount of damage on the ground. If nothing else, his efforts were heroic,” he said.
Squires said Waxtan was a former Army helicopter pilot who enjoyed hiking. About three weeks ago, the two men spoke. “He was very happy, he kept telling me, ‘We need captains, come on over,” Squires recalled.
“I’m still in shock,” said the friend, his voice breaking. “God, I’m going to miss him”, the Sun Sentinel reported.