Coworkers and friends mourn 144th Fighter Wing pilot killed in crash at Porterville airport


FRESNO, California. (KGPE) – The 144 Fighter Wing is paying tribute to one of their own that was killed in an airplane crash in Porterville earlier this week.  

37-year-old Lt. Colonel Billy Sullivan, known as ‘Taz’, was killed after an accident while flying his personal aircraft at the Porterville Municipal Airport on Monday afternoon.

The cause of the crash is still under investigation.

Once the 144th Wing of the Air National Guard found out about Sullivan’s unexpected passing, they suspended flying operations for a couple of days.

Coworkers and friends of Sullivan say they are still in disbelief.

“it just is a shock that someone this amazing just passed away,” said Michael Chua.

Chua says Sullivan was a friend of his for over 20 years and describes him as a true lover of life 

No matter what Sullivan set his mind to he accomplished, whether that be surfing, CrossFit, mixed martial arts, or serving his country. 

“He was a man of many hobbies he was passionate at what he did,” said Chua.   

Sullivan was born in Hawaii and later graduated from the U.S. Airforce Academy in 2006.

He spent over 1,500 hours in an F-15 Eagle Fighter jet and was recently named the director of operations for the 194th Squadron of the 144th Fighter Wing. 

“Taz was the embodiment of everything that we value here. He was a proficient pilot. Ready to go to combat as well ready to teach anyone what they needed to know in their growth as a fighter pilot. So he was a shining light. A rising star and an inspiration to all of us,” said 144th Wing Commander Troy Havener.   

The loss is taking a heavy toll on the community, his friends and family, especially his wife Diana. 

“We are all heartbroken… a lot of his Air Force family and my thoughts and condolences to his family as well,” said Chua.   

The base plans to resume operations Thursday.

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July 23 2021 05:30 pm

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