By Jennifer McGraw

NEVADA COUNTY (CBS13) – A beloved flight instructor who also worked on small airplanes was killed and another woman suffered smoke inhalation after a fast-moving fire broke out.

It happened Wednesday morning at the Nevada County Airport inside a hangar.

“The smoke was billowing from the ceiling into our area,” said Travis Mills who works on planes next door to the Cirrus Aircraft Service Center. “The smoke was so intense and black.”

Crews responded within just a few minutes and said the sprinklers were already activated, which helped, but sadly not enough.

“It was a fast-moving fire and it just limited his chances of survival,” said Battalion Chief Josh Sunde with the Nevada County Fire Department.

The aviation community was stunned and they lost a great man. John Pichitino loved to fly and they said he was the best.

“There are so many safety standards in place to avoid something like this from happening and when it does it’s a freak accident,” said the Nevada County airport manager Lee Ocker.

He said Pichitino was working on a plane when the accident happened.

“Everything just aligned in a very bad way today,” Ocker said with sadness.

Ultimately, he said John was doing what he loved.

“He worked on airplanes, he was a flight instructor on airplanes, and he spread his love for aviation to other people so will continue on. It’s sort of like his legacy,” Ocker said.

Still, his death is a hard loss that’s grounded his fellow aviators.

“Just a super tragic day. We are sorry for the family’s loss in the community that lost someone good,” Mills said.

One woman was taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation but released.

The cause of the accident remains under investigation.

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