Few details available on circumstances of aircraft crash

DEWEES ISLAND, S.C. (WCIV) -- Local pilot Robin Bowers says he's familiar with an aircraft that crashed in the water in the area of Dewees Island and Isle of Palms on Wednesday.

Bowers is a local pilot and certified flight instructor with Charleston Flight Services. He says owners can build light-sport aircrafts themselves, and it requires very little training by the FAA to be licensed. He also says high winds can make light-sport aircraft dangerous to fly.

The aircraft's maximum takeoff weight is about 1,300 pounds.

Local businessman Lucas Smith and one of his employees died on Wednesday when his light-sport aircraft fell from the sky and crashed into the water about 200 yards from the beach.

A 911 caller told dispatchers that the wind was blowing hard and the aircraft looked like it was twitching before it crashed.

"We just can't say for certain or speculate too deeply, but with water takeoffs you've got crosswinds, coastal winds," Bowers said.

Bowers said speed could have also come into play.

"It could be that on that day he may have been flying in excess of those maneuvering speeds that were not safe and it could have lead to the structural failures that may have brought the plane down," he said.

The FAA says light-sport aircraft are small, simple, low-performance, low energy aircraft that can only hold one or two people. They have small, non turbine engines, with a fixed pitch propeller, and fixed landing gear.

So far, very few details have been released on the believed circumstances of the crash. FAA investigators say Smith did not have the required license to pilot the aircraft. Investigators also say the aircraft was not registered.

FAA spokesperson Kathleen Bergen said a preliminary report is expected in the next 10 days.