Captiva, Florida (News-Press) -- The plane involved in the fatal crash on North Captiva Island was carrying more than 650 pounds of tile when it crash landed in the Gulf of Mexico.
A National Transportation Safety Board preliminary report, which was released Tuesday, detailed some of the circumstances surrounding the crash that killed Gregg Howard, the plane's only occupant.
Around 5:45 p.m. on July 16, Howard's plane crashed off of North Captiva Island into the Gulf, where he drowned. He was attempting to land on the island's 2,000-foot-long grass airstrip.
The report confirmed what many eyewitnesses claimed, that Howard, of St. Petersburg, was carrying building materials prior to crashing.
Porcelain tiles of varying sizes were in the plane, which had four passenger seats replaced by wooden pallets, according to the report. "Following recovery of the airplane, the tiles were removed from the airplane and weighed a total of 666 pounds," the report reads.
See Also: Small plane crashes in Gulf of Mexico
Howard was flying a Saratoga model, a Piper plane the company stopped manufacturing around 2008, according to a company spokesperson. Planes similar to Howard's listed on Piper's website have a "standard useful load" — the amount of weight a plane can carry that is removable, such as the pilot, seats or other cargo — in the range of 1,300-1,400 pounds.
Weight will certainly be one of the factors investigators will look at when determining a cause, said Anthony Brickhouse, a former NTSB investigator and current associate professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which has a campus in Dayton Beach.
Shifting weight can alter a plane's center of gravity, which is key to controlling maneuverability, Brickhouse said. Pilots always want to make sure a load is secure, he added.
Preliminary reports "will never identify a cause," Brickhouse said, only present some initial facts. "There's a lot of facts but no analysis in here," he said, of the report.
Howard was trying to land his plane when he "aborted the landing attempt," according to the report. "During the go-around maneuver the airplane was observed at no more than 10 feet above ground level," the report reads, regarding Howard's second landing attempt.
While the engine was heard working, the plane was not rising, according to witnesses. "The left wing impacted the water, separated, and subsequently the airplane sank," the report reads.
This was Howard's second trip originating from Page Airport in Fort Myers with porcelain tiles that day, according to a witness in the report.
Salty Approach has had its share of crashes in the past, including two fatal crashes that resulted in three deaths since 1990.
"When strong cross wind conditions exist, the approach and landing, if attempted, should be done with extreme caution," its website reads.
Facts may be missing and errors may be present in preliminary reports, according to the NTSB. It could be about a year before a final report, which includes a probable cause and NTSB recommendation, is completed, Brickhouse said.