Since he was a kid, James Jambor wanted to fly.
In 1994, an uncle took James, then age 11, on his first flight.
"It was a Christmas gift," said Chris Jambor, James' father, who is rector at All Saints' Episcopal Church in Fort Worth.
"From then on," he added, "he loved to fly, and every opportunity he could get -- and that I could afford -- he'd be in the air.
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"He died doing what he loved to do."
James, a 24-year-old commercial pilot, was killed Tuesday morning when a twin-engine airplane crashed near Tonganoxie, about 30 miles west of Kansas City in northeast Kansas.
It was a training flight, according to a preliminary report from the Federal Aviation Administration.
His father explained that it was the last exercise James needed to be checked out on the Aero Commander 500S operated by his new employer, Central Airlines of Fairway, Kan.
James recently joined the commercial aviation firm to pilot cargo flights between Memphis and Kansas City, his father said.
"He was amazed people would pay him to do it," Chris said, "because he would have done it for free."
Accompanying James was Murray Brown, 47, of Kansas City of Kan. They took off from Wheeler Downtown Airport on the north side of Kansas City, according to reports.
A farmer in a field near Tonganoxie noticed the twin-engine plane flying low and struggling to climb, according to a report from the Kansas City Star.
The farmer lost sight of the aircraft as it flew over some trees, but then he heard it hit the ground, the Star reported.
Brown also died.
The FAA's preliminary report said the plane "crashed under unknown circumstances."
It will take at least a year to complete the crash investigation, said Elizabeth Isham Cory, spokeswoman for an FAA regional office in Des Plaines, Ill.
Chris said he and his wife, Patricia, are enormously proud of their son's accomplishments.
James attended All Saints' Episcopal School and graduated from the Key School in 2002.
He studied at Southeastern Oklahoma University in Durant for two years and then accelerated his flight training. He earned his private and commercial pilot's licenses, and flew single and multi-engine aircraft.
James also became a flight instructor, his father said.
The young pilot loved children, especially the three sons of his older sister, Ann, Chris said.
The family learned of the crash at about 6 p.m. Tuesday, Chris said. Since then, they have been covered with prayer and concern from the congregation at All Saints' Episcopal Church and their son's friends.
"We knew James as the light-hearted one in the group," said Emily Gordon of Fort Worth. "His smile was infectious. His laugher was contagious.
"And while we may never get over him not being here to be the best man at our weddings, to watch our kids grow up and to tell stories of 'remember when,' he'll live on in our hearts forever."
Said Chris, "He was a loving, caring kid and his mom and I are very proud of him."