A small airplane which crashed in Gordon County last month, killing the single occupant, was a “prototype of an airplane kit that was planned for mass production” and was on a test flight when it went down, after it “struggled to maintain airspeed or a nose-up attitude,” according to a National Transportation Safety Board report.

According to Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen, an experimental amateur-built Commuter Craft Innovator, being flown by 63-year-old Richard Hogan of Dawsonville, crashed in a field south of Calhoun at 3:45 p.m. on March 23. The plane crashed in a wooded area within a few hundred yards of a residential neighborhood on Spencer Drive.

“Ground scars and fragmentation of the wreckage were consistent with ground contact in a steep, nose-down attitude at high speed,” the report stated.

The NTSB investigator was called to the scene to investigate along with FAA personnel. A report of their investigation was released last week.

According to the report:

In February, the plane was flown for the first time at Tom B. David Field in Calhoun, before being disassembled and returned to the factory for modifications. Commuter Craft employees told investigators the plane was a prototype for an airplane kit and was being planned for mass production. Employees added that Hogan had no experience in flying the Innovator airplane.

The plane was brought back to the Calhoun airport the day before the crash and was taxi-tested. On the day of the crash, Hogan had an assistant with him fly in a “chase plane” to document the flight and record what may need to be fixed. Hogan had told the assistant he planned to take off, make sure the plane was flying fine and then fly to 3,000 feet to film the plane.

But when the plane took off, it rose “barely above the trees,” made one maneuver and then went out of sight, according to the assistant, who had taken off ahead of Hogan in the chase plane.

The plane barely rose 200 feet from the ground, the pilot of the chase plane estimated, and was challenged “to maintain airspeed or a nose-up attitude.” The chase pilot added that he heard Hogan say he planned to return to the airport, before the chase pilot saw the plane go down. He added that the plane was “porpoising” before the nose dipped down, leading to the crash.

Another witness, a pilot who was approaching the airport by car, said the plane was “pitching and rolling and appeared unstable” immediately after takeoff. He added that the plane was around 150 feet off the ground when it steeply turned and disappeared from his sight behind a line of trees.

The owner of the property where the plane crashed told investigators he heard the plane fly low above his workshop before the sound of impact.

As part of its investigation, the NTSB also looked into Hogan’s certifications. He had a private pilot certificate, but he did not have a valid medical certificate. His FAA third-class medical certificate was issued in Dec. 6, 1999. In addition, he had not completed a BasicMed course, as required for his class of medical certificate every two years.

Hogan’s last flight before the crash was on April 27, 2018, flying for just over an hour. In all of 2018, he flew 4.7 hours. Overall, he had 334 total hours of flight experience.