Only days ago, TWA Capt. Steven Snyder stopped by a small airport in Bridgeport to check on the single-engine plane he loved to fly over the Conneticut countryside.
"He called it his pet," corporate pilot Stanley Logan, one of Snyder's flying buddies for 15 years, said Thursday at the airport. "It was his pride and joy. He got more of a kick out of flying the small one than the big one."
Snyder was a captain aboard the TWA turbo jumbo jet that exploded and crashed off Long Island Wednesday, killing him and 229 others aboard the flight.
News of Snyder's death shocked the community of Stratford, where he lived. "The first thing on my mind was I hope it's not Steve," said Selma Baker, a neighbor of 14 years. "We all will miss him very much. It's been a shock because we saw him pick up the mail a couple of days ago."
Snyder, 57, was one of two veteran captains on Flight 800 headed to Paris. Others in the cockpit were Capt. Ralph Kevorkian of Garden Grove, Calif., flight engineer Richard Campbell of Ridgefield, Conn., and flight engineer Oliver Krick of St. Louis.
Friends and neighbors describe Snyder, who was divorced and lived by himself at Oronoque Village, as a quiet "gentleman" who liked to golf and loved to fly his Cessna, which he had completely refurbished nearly a year and a half ago.
The plane, which sits at a local airport, had a new paint job, new avionics, a new engine and new interior, Logan said.
When Snyder wasn't flying TWA planes to Europe, he was checking his plane or flying it across the state, Logan said. "He loved TWA and he loved to fly."
When he wasn't flying, he could be found on the golf course at the Oronoque Country Club. Proshop manager Dawn Kusznir remembers him with pipe in hand leaning across the glass at the pro shop.
"I was terrified of flying. He would reassure me about how safe the planes were. He said he was never afraid," Kusznir said. "He said these planes were so well taken care of ... He would say, `I wouldn't be flying if I thought something was wrong with my plane."'
Snyder had more than 30 years with TWA, where he logged more than 17,263 flight hours. As captain he had logged 2,821 hours.
Although quiet, Snyder won over people with his friendly and pleasant manner, friends said.
John Korolyshun, a golf pro at the country club, recalled Snyder joking about his golf game. "He hit two balls in the water on the third hole and did not hit the green," Korolynshun remembered. "He told me he can control a plane better than he can control a golf ball."
Campbell, the flight engineer also from Connecticut, leaves behind a wife, Margie, who is a schoolteacher, and two sons.
"He always had a smile and a good word," said William Mayr, a family friend and pilot for TWA. "He was a super nice guy. He's really going to be truly missed."
Campbell, a former Air Force pilot, was hired in 1966 at TWA and had 18,527 flight hours. "He was a dedicated professional pilot ... And he loved flying," Mayr said. "This is not a job you do because it's a job, you do because you love it."
Michael Arena contributed to this story.