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Pilot killed in small plane crash in Rockingham County

The small plane crashed Thursday night at Shiloh Airport.

ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, N.C. — A pilot has died in a small plane crash at Shiloh Airport in Rockingham County.

The Rockingham County Sheriff's Office said the plane crashed Thursday evening just before 7 p.m. at Shiloh Airport on Settles Bridge Road in Stoneville. 

Investigators said the plane caught on fire in the crash.

The Rockingham County Sheriff's Office said they will not be releasing the name of the pilot at this time.

"We're sorry for their loss and it certainly is tragic for the individual and families involved. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family," Rodney Cates said with Rockingham County Emergency Services. 

The Federal Aviation Administration was contacted and began its investigation Friday morning. The National Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation into what caused the crash.

"We spoke with one witness earlier this afternoon who said he saw the airplane taking off. It reached an altitude of about 100 feet or so and then entered a turn and then impacted terrain," said Allison Diaz of the NTSB.

Investigators have not released the identity of the pilot. However, they identified the plane as an Early Bird Jenny, which is an amateur-built replica of a World War 1 plane.

Airport staff said the pilot who co-owned the plane was a regular at the airport and a plane enthusiast. They said he had just finished building the plane there 3 months ago and was flying locally to get the required flight hours for the certification process. No information was readily available about how many flight hours the plane had accumulated before the crash.

"Will be looking at the engine, looking for maintenance records on the airplane as well as delving into the pilot's experience and qualifications," Diaz said.

Investigators said they'll also look to see if the weather conditions at the time of the crash played any role.

The NTSB said a preliminary report on the crash would be available in two weeks while the full investigative report could take 12 to 18 months.