Report: Plane's engine made popping noise before Greenwood crash

The plane crashed into a house in Greenwood
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A small plane that crashed in Greenwood last Friday was trailing blue smoke during takeoff, according to a report out Thursday.

The National Transportation Safety Board released its preliminary report on the crash, which killed 46-year-old pilot William Gilliland and critically injured the co-pilot, Michael Elliot of Tarpon Springs, Florida. Elliot is a certified flight instructor. The plane crashed into a home in Greenwood. The purpose of the flight was to fly the airplane to Texas for an annual inspection and to receive instrument flight instruction during the flight.

Several witnesses saw the plane before it departed and during takeoff. They told investigators the engine sounded normal while the plane was taxiing. They also said the plane sat at the end of the runway for 10-15 minutes before it departed.

Two witnesses reported that the plane was trailing blue smoke during takeoff. One of those witnesses say the engine was making a loud popping noise like it was misfiring. Other witnesses say the plane was 50-100 feet off the ground when it passed by the fixed base operator, which is about a quarter of the way down the 5,100-foot runway. They also described a popping sound coming from the engine.

Witnesses told NTSB investigators that the nose of the plane lowered slightly and they thought the pilot was going to land again, but the nose rose and the plane continued climbing.

The witnesses said the airplane was slow and "wallowing" with the nose pitching up and down slightly as it continued to climb to about 100 to 150 feet above the ground.