FISHERS, Ind. — Investigators are working to determine what caused a deadly crash Thursday morning at Indianapolis Metropolitan Airport after a small plane burst into flames shortly after takeoff.
The sole passenger of the single-propeller aircraft was killed about 11:15 a.m. at the airport near East 96th Street and Allisonville Road, authorities said. The pilot has not been identified.
Preliminary information indicates that the plane, a Van's RV-12, crashed under unknown circumstances and caught fire shortly after departing the airport, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Tony Molinaro said.
Molinaro said damage to the plane was "substantial."
Hamilton County Coroner John Chalfin said he was informed before receiving the body that the man had trauma to his upper body and face and that his legs were charred by fire.
Authorities did not have any preliminary identification, so Chaflin said he would try to determine who the pilot was by any identifying scars or other marks.
Jay Nolan, a barista at Starbucks on East 96th Street, said she had a clear view of the plane crash through the coffee shop's large windows. Whether the plane was returning to the airfield immediately after takeoff was unclear.
"It just looked like he came in fast and low then exploded," Nolan said.
Grant Kirsh, an Indianapolis lawyer who takes flight lessons about three times a week at Metropolitan, said an official at the airport told him the pilot was not one of the 150 airplane owners based there.
“It was someone new to the airport,” said Kirsh, whose father, Joel Kirsh, flies at Metropolitan one to three times a week.
Kirsh said he was told the plane overran the runway and crashed when the plane left the landing strip. He said he drove by the airport and saw the damaged tail of the aircraft in the grass 200 feet past the end of the runway.
“It’s really hard to overrun; usually you need only half the runaway,” Kirsh said. “It would appear something else was going on for that to happen.”
He said the airport is very safe and he could not remember another accident there.
“It’s very well-maintained, top-notch, and I see airport authority officials there all the time inspecting it,” Kirsh said.
The 445-acre airport, surrounded on most sides by suburban development, has a 3,850-foot-long runway. The airport accommodates about 24,000 flights per year, said Stephanie McFarland, spokeswoman for the Indianapolis International Airport, which owns the Fishers airport. About 150 small planes are based there.
McFarland said Metropolitan will be closed pending a National Transportation Safety Board investigation. She declined to provide any further details on the crash.
A final determination on a plane crash can take up to 18 months, NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway said. A preliminary report is usually available in a week to 10 days.
The Van's RV-12 is a two-seat, all-metal plane that reaches a top speed of 135 mph, according to the manufacturer's website.
The National Transportation Safety Board is an independent Federal agency charged by Congress with investigating every civil aviation accident the United States. The NTSB determines the probable cause of the accidents and issues safety recommendations aimed at preventing future accidents. In addition, the NTSB carries out special studies concerning transportation safety and coordinates the resources of the Federal Government and other organizations to provide assistance to victims and their family members impacted by major transportation disasters.