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NEWTON, N.C. - Federal investigators say a pilot may have been doing tricks just before a fatal plane crash in Catawba County.

The National Transportation Safety Board says in a recent report that 55-year-old pilot James Thomas of Denver died when his plane crashed May 25 near Newton.

Investigators say they believe Thomas was teaching himself stunts. Authorities spoke with a flight instructor who had given Thomas a lesson in turns and spins but determined the pilot didn't have the skill to do the tricks.

Officials say the plane was a home-built Stolp Starduster SA-300. It crashed in a wheat field about 20 minutes after Thomas took off.

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