TRUCKEE, Calif. (AP) - A pilot was airlifted to a hospital in Reno Wednesday with serious injuries after a twin-engine plane he was flying crashed shortly after takeoff near Lake Tahoe and caught fire.
Kevin Bumen, director of aviation at Truckee Tahoe Airport, said the pilot was the only person onboard when the Piper Aztec crashed into an aircraft parking area around 9:20 a.m. Wednesday.
Witnesses said the pilot appeared to get himself out of the aircraft before it burst into flames.
"He looked in surprisingly good shape for a guy who had just run his plane into the ground," said Chaco Mohler, a publisher at the Tahoe Quarterly in Truckee, who witnessed the crash from his office window a block from the airport.
The plane was about 50 feet off the ground when it veered left and crashed, he said.
"It went relatively quickly into the ground, hitting the wing and nose at the same time," Mohler said.
No other equipment was damaged when the plane caught fire after the crash, Bumen said.
Federal aviation records show the plane is registered to Brian Mettler, of Bakersfield. A woman who identified herself as his wife declined to comment when reached by telephone shortly after the crash. But a Nevada County sheriff's investigator says he believes the pilot is the same man who owns the plane.
The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board will be investigating the cause of the crash, Bumen said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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