A Son Mourns His Stunt-Pilot Mother

A Son Mourns His Stunt-Pilot Mother CBS

When Nancy Lynn got in her little red and white plane, she did things most people — most pilots — would never dream of.

"It's almost as if I'm one with the plane and the plane is one with the air," she told Sunday Morning correspondent Steve Hartman a year ago. "And I really can't think of anything more joyful."

Lynn had made a mid-life career change and left a stable job at Proctor and Gamble to become one of the only women on the air show circuit. She teamed up with her teenage son Pete, who inspected the plane before each flight. He also served as his mother's announcer.

They billed themselves as the only mother-son team on the circuit. But it was more than a gimmick, and they performed a special ritual every time he strapped her in, and lowered the canopy.

"I make it a point that she knows that if she's going up, that I love her. And I feel bad if she's going up flying and don't say, 'I love you,' 'cause, you know, she might not come down," he said a year ago. "And she might not come down. And it's dangerous. I mean, you take the risk and that's what's fun about it."

A month ago, Nancy Lynn died after a crash at an air show in Culpeper, Va.

"The wings were level. She's pulling out. And just doesn't quite make it," Pete said. "She got too low. Yeah, I kind of stopped (announcing) at that point 'cause I realized that something was gonna happen. And I turned my microphone off. So she kind of disappears below the runway, and I see parts of the airplane come up. And I had to go out there. And I got up there, and the airplane's on fire. I mean, I'm trying to find her. I can hear her. I can't get to her. And it was horrific."

The rescue crews respond within seconds and pulled her from her the wreckage

"And at that point, I think she was in shock and not really feeling much of the pain of the burns," Pete, 18, said. "And they kind of usher me into the ambulance, and she's wrapped up pretty well. And she goes, 'Hi, Bear. How bad is it?' Meanwhile, her voice is like really raspy 'cause of the smoke. And I couldn't say anything. I just said, 'Hey, I'm here. I love you, and I think it's gonna be okay.' And then she said, 'I love you, too.' And then they took me out. That was it. That's the last time I talked to my mom."

Danger was always part of the equation for the Lynn family.

Nancy's husband and Pete's dad, Scott, walked away from one plane crash only to die of brain cancer six years ago. Then Nancy's flying partner, Mark Damisch, died in a crash. After all that, Nancy seriously considered quitting.

"I just said, 'Pete, sweetie, you know I am it. I'm your parent. Are you OK with my flying? Because I'm not sure if I am,'" she said a year ago.

Pete told her: "It's what you do."

Pete had the memorial service at his mom's hangar in Maryland, but even it wasn't big enough to hold all the people who will miss her. The congregation rose and gave Pete a standing ovation when he spoke.

"She used to always tell me to go for it," he said at the ceremony. "And I think that's one of the big things and it's something I'm always going to remember, is 'go for it.' And I think that's something she would like to pass along to everybody in this room. Because if you didn't take risks, if you didn't have a spirit for adventure, then what's the point of life? That's my mom. Thank you."

Pete says he is going to continue flying and is currently training for his pilot's license, which he hopes to get by the end of the year.

"It felt good to be in the airplane," he said. "And I was rolling out onto the runway. And I was thinking about my mom and that she would be proud that I was out here flying today."

When Hartman interviewed Nancy a year ago, one of the last things he asked her was what would you say to Pete if the worst happened.

She answered: "I would want you to remember all these amazing situations we've been in. To have this way of life, this flying inverted, in front of crowds, show center, on-the-edge kind of life. And guess what, honey? You would go on and have an amazing life."
  • Caitlin Johnson

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