SANTA MONICA, Calif. - Witnesses reported seeing a small plane make a hard landing at Santa Monica Airport, immediately take off again and then climb erratically before slamming into the runway nose-first, killing both people on board, according to a preliminary report.
A flight instructor and a student pilot were in the single-engine Piper Sport when it crashed and caught fire around 5 p.m. on Sept. 8 at Santa Monica Airport, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a report released Thursday.
There was 45 minutes of instruction on the ground before the pair took off for a flight to Malibu and back that lasted just over an hour, the report said.
The plane came in for a landing that witnesses described as "hard" and then "began to aggressively pitch up and climb, while the engine made a sound consistent with it going to full power," according to the report.
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"All the witnesses provided similar accounts of the airplane continuing to climb in a nose up attitude, before leveling off at the apex of the climb, then spinning to the left, descending, and colliding with the ground," the report said.
The report said the instructor could be heard screaming "let go, let go……. let go, let go, let go" in the moments before the crash.
The safety board typically releases preliminary crash reports within weeks, with the final reports usually following several months later.
Santa Monica Airport’s single runway sits amid residential neighborhoods in the city of more than 90,000 on the Pacific Ocean. City leaders and many residents advocate closing the airport, citing noise and safety concerns.