COVINGTON, Ga. — Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board said Friday a plane crash on Thursday at a General Mills plant in Covington happened as a pilot was practicing "touch and go" landings.
There were no survivors in the crash. Police in Covington have said at least two people were on board, and on Friday the NTSB confirmed one passenger and one pilot were killed.
The identities of the people aboard have not yet been released.
Police said the crash occurred around 6:45 p.m. and that the plane did not crash directly into the plant, but rather into trucks behind the plant. The plane exploded on impact, according to police.
The NTSB said it was a training flight, and that the owner was learning from a flight instructor. They did not say if the owner or instructor was operating the plane when the crash occurred.
They said the twin engine plane was doing "touch and go" landings at Covington Municipal Airport - a technique in which the pilot "makes an approach to landing, configures the plane to land, and briefly touches down on the runway," according to the website Pilot Mall.
"Rather than coming to a stop and taxiing off the runway as you would with a normal landing, once the wheels touch down, the pilot continues down the runway, reconfigures the plane for takeoff and executes an immediate takeoff without ever coming to a stop," the site explains.
It's a method frequently used in training how to land a plane, because it allows for a pilot to make several attempts without having to come to a full landing stop.
"According to witnesses, they believe the plane was having trouble gaining altitude. They could hear that there was engine trouble," Covington Police Captain Ken Malcom said on Thursday, describing the incident as seen by nearby witnesses. "Suddenly the plane veered to the right and immediately came straight down and crashed into the lot behind us. This is the General Mills plant that produces cereal here in our area. The plane went down in an isolated area here on the lot behind us in an area where they store tractor trailers."
According to the NTSB, the flight originated in Lumpkin County, with the plane going to Covington to do the practice. The agency also said five total trucks burned when the plane crashed at the General Mills plant, and that the local fire department is still separating truck parts and airplane parts to assist in the investigation.
An NTSB preliminary report on the crash won't be available for another roughly two weeks, and the cause won't be fully established until the report is complete which could take several months.