Survivor of plane crash flying high again and learning from the best

Phillip Herrington suffered serious burns in 2011

LAKELAND, Fla. - He nearly lost his life in a plane crash, but one bay area pilot is now flying again and learning from the best.

Phillip Herrington just finished an internship with JetBlue Airlines this summer through the Polk State College Aerospace program.

His decision to get back in the air? A no-brainer, he said.

"It's sort of like you get bucked off the horse. You got to get back on," he said.

Herrington has scars that cover half of his body, reminding him of the single day that will stick with him for the rest of his life.

"I was one month away from my pilot's license when I crashed," he said.

He was 16 years old and still learning the ropes, taking off from a grass runway in Mulberry.

He said the man at the controls failed to do a pre-flight check, which would have signaled a problem with the engine.

The small plane cleared a line of trees, power lines and, around 150 feet up, it took a nose dive directly into the front lawn of a day care center.

The plane caught fire and the wreckage looked grim.

"The phase of my memory that's gone is getting out of the airplane. I remember being in the airplane and being on fire," Herrington said.

After weeks of physical therapy, countless skin grafts, and a few words of encouragement, Herrington convinced his family and friends that he's not going to give up on his dream.

"I think he did a great job coming back from that accident, because not many people can," said Angel Castellanos, friend and fellow student pilot.

Herrington hopes to graduate from Polk State College within two more years.

In the meantime, he's using his experience he learned this summer at JetBlue to help him work part time at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport.

"The long term goal is I would say manager of an airport, and fly airships on the weekends and instruct when I can," he said.

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