Obituary: John 'Jocko' Graham III / Pilot killed in crash was longtime flyer
April 17, 2017 12:01 AM
Emergency response vehicles park along the runway at Rostraver Airport as workers respond to the scene of a plane crash that killed John "Jocko" Graham III, 42, of Jefferson Hills.
By Shelly Bradbury / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The pilot who died Wednesday when a gust of wind blew a plane off the runway at Rostraver Airport was president of the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics and had been flying for 26 years.
John “Jocko” Graham III, 42, of Jefferson Hills was practicing touch-and-go landings in a 1940s Howard plane when the wind caused Mr. Graham to lose control and the plane crashed into the woods south of the runway. The plane became engulfed in flames after crashing, with Mr. Graham trapped inside.
The father of three was known for his kindness and compassion, said Suzanne Markle, executive vice president of Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics, an aviation maintenance training school at the Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin.
“Mr. Graham will be fondly remembered as a lifelong advocate of aviation, a champion of the maintenance and technical careers that are so essential to the aeronautics industry, and a gracious member of many professional and charitable organizations,” she said in a statement. “Our extended PIA family of faculty, staff, administration, students and alumni [is] shaken by this sudden loss of our friend, colleague and mentor, but each of us will take solace in the opportunity we have to honor John Graham’s legacy and vision in our daily work.”
After his death, former students, colleagues and staff remembered Mr. Graham on social media. Many people recounted how he seemed to always be professional, respectful and friendly.
Paul Hoback, vice president of facilities, engineering and maintenance at Pittsburgh International and Allegheny County airports, said Mr. Graham volunteered his time to help out with airport tours and taught junior high and high school students about flying. He said that he could always count on Mr. Graham to give a tour and do a great job with it.
“He was just an amazing individual who truly cared about aviation and education,” Mr. Hoback said. “He was such an important person for the county airport. You can never replace someone like him. This was a terrible tragedy.
“His importance to the aviation community is incredible.”
Mr. Graham, who was an Eagle Scout as a young man, became a private pilot when he was 16 years old. He took over Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics from his father, John Graham II, who died in 2011, and was serving as president, CEO and chairman of the board.
The company was founded by Mr. Graham’s grandfather, John Graham, in 1929.
The younger Mr. Graham is survived by his wife, Jana Agostini Graham; children Andrew, Annmarie and Katherine; mother, Patricia Callahan Graham; and sisters Cary Fletcher and Kristy Merritt.
His Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at St. Thomas A’ Becket Church, 139 Gill Hall Road, Jefferson Hills.
Shelly Bradbury: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1999 or follow on Twitter @ShellyBradbury.