One person died after a home-built plane crashed at the San Gabriel Valley Airport Friday morning, officials said.
The single-engine Pazmany PL-2 crashed on airport property while departing from runway 19 around 9:30 a.m., said Ian Gregor, a public affairs manager for the Federal Aviation Administration.
The pilot was declared dead once firefighters arrived on scene shortly after 9:30 a.m., according to Vanessa Lonzano with the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
El Monte police identified the victim as 63-year-old Jeffrey Ying.
Ying, a member of a formation flying team called the Tiger Squadron, started flying in 1981, according to his biography on the group's website. He had flown more than 2,000 hours as a pilot and recently completed a trip around the world.
Although firefighters initially indicated two people were on board when the plane went down, El Monte Police Lt. Ernie Cramer and Gregor said the pilot was traveling alone.
Multiple witnesses reported the craft's engine noise ceased after takeoff somewhere between 100 and 200 feet from the ground, said Patrick Jones with the National Transportation Safety Board.
"It looked like he was taking off -- it just didn't look like he got high enough," Kevin Ward, a witness, told KTLA. "I heard a snap, and then the plane jerked and then went straight down into the ground."
"The aircraft was observed making a left turn, left wing low, and the aircraft then descended uncontrollably, hitting the ground and coming to rest you see it now," Jones said.
Footage of the aftermath showed the plane's nose flattened from its smash into the runway pavement, with its tail still suspended in the air.
The plane likely went down because of a mechanical failure, according to Jones. Though investigators are still working to determine an official cause, he said the pilot's apparent attempt to turn around return to the runway was a notable departure from standard procedure.
FAA registry information showed the aircraft was built in 1979.
The plane was registered to an Azusa-based company named Progenitech and had a valid certificate issued in July 2014, according to FAA records.
Though the craft was considered "experimental" under FAA rules, since it was not built by a certificated company like Cessna or Beechcraft, Jones said he did not believe its construction played a role in the crash.
“This accident could happen to any aircraft because aerodynamics are all that was at play," he said. "We have witnesses reporting what appears to be a mechanical issue and the pilot attempting to return to the runway, which, aerodynamically, is not normal procedure.”
Jones' evaluation was in line with what witness Kevin Ward told KTLA.
“It looked like he was taking off, it just didn’t look like he got high enough," he said. "It almost looked like he was turning around to try to come back down.”
The San Gabriel Valley Airport is located on the 4000 block of Santa Anita Avenue, about one mile north of El Monte in an unincorporated area of L.A. County.
The FAA, NTSB and El Monte police were investigating the incident.
KTLA's Jennifer Thang and Irving Last contributed to this report.