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Pilots-in-training were pursuing passion

The mother of the pilot of a plane

The mother of the pilot of a plane bound for East Farmingdale from Pennsylvania shows a photo of her son. (May 10, 2012) Credit: Jim Staubitser

With a certainty that went deep, Patrick Sheridan and Casey Falconer loved being in the clouds.

They went into the aviation program at Farmingdale State College, pursuing their passion until Wednesday night, when they died in a fiery plane crash in Pennsylvania. Family, friends and neighbors Thursday night recalled how the love of flying defined Sheridan, 34, of Long Beach, and passenger Falconer, 19, of Garden City Park.

Sheridan liked talking about his trips and what one neighbor called his love for "being up there with the birds."

"He said it was like a dream when he was up there, because it was just quiet and beautiful," said Nancy Larson, 46, a friend and neighbor. "He wanted to spend the rest of his life flying. He was living out his dream."

Her husband Frank, 46, said when Sheridan purchased the Mooney last year he "couldn't have been more excited."

"He showed us pictures of it. He loved flying it. That plane was his pride and joy."

Falconer was living his dream, too, when his parents let their only child learn how to fly, said neighbor Meghan Campisi, 29, tearing up as she described him as an Eagle Scout with a passion for the wilderness and camping.

"He just loved to fly. That was his choice," Campisi said. "It was a big thing with his parents letting him fly, but it was his passion. His parents made sure he had that choice. They loved to see him happy."

Elizabeth Morgan, 33, of Westbury, sat in front of her childhood home across the street from the Falconers' house, calling their son "one of the nicest kids you'll ever meet . . . He always wanted to be a pilot."

Friday was to be their last day in the college's aviation class. Before graduating, students log in 250 to 300 in-flight hours. They learn to fly single-engine planes, then commercial aircraft, college officials said. Sheridan "loved flying," said neighbor and friend Jack Horan. "He would always talk about his trips after flying to places like Florida and New Orleans."

If he had gotten the chance, Sheridan might have taken his neighbors up with him.

Horan's wife Ann said Sheridan tried to coax her and her husband into flying with him.

"He wanted to take us up," she said. "He was very passionate about flying."

With Ellen Yan

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