NTSB releases initial report on Rowan County plane crash that killed beloved pilot

STATESVILLE, N.C. — The National Transportation Safety Board has released its initial report of a plane crash where a beloved pilot was killed shortly after leaving Statesville Regional Airport last month.

Officials said the pilot, Guy Maher, was heading from Statesville Regional Airport to Twin Lakes Airport in Davie County.

The Statesville Regional Airport manager confirmed to Channel 9's Briana Harper that crews found the wreckage in a field in Rowan County.

The NTSB released an initial report with accounts from two people who heard the plane's engine making noises. Then, one of them said they saw the plane in a "straight-line" path toward the ground.

The report said Maher held a commercial and instructor pilot certification and had more than 17,000 hours of flight time.

The initial report did not include a ruling on the cause of the crash.

Maher was described as a very special person in the Rowan County community.

"Many of our volunteers go to church with him and have known him for years so it has been very hard on the responders," Deborah Horne from Rowan County Emergency Management said. "He is a very special gentleman and very well known in the community and the church."

Channel 9's Elsa Gillis spoke with Maher's pastor, A.J. Moore, who said he was in shock when he heard the pilot in the crash was Guy.

"To get word yesterday that he was missing, it's too hard to believe. It was a total shock, anybody but Guy. He had a very big sense of human, very caring, give you the shirt off his back," Moore said. "He was one of the safest pilots I've ever been around. If he was told to check something twice, Guy would check it 10 times."

(Moore, left, with Maher, right)

Moore said he personally baptized Maher and described him as a husband, father, grandfather, an active member of the South River United Methodist Church, and someone with a big heart.

"I know he worked for AirCare Baptist. He did humanitarian missions during disasters. He flew constantly to help people, taking in medical supplies," Moore said. "Anybody that's flown with Guy said it was the most pleasant experience because they knew they were in safe hands with Guy."

"He's gonna leave a big impact. His loss is gonna be felt, big ripples," Moore said.

Horne said Maher was flying a small fixed-wing plane and was once a professional pilot who was very experienced. She said the news of him dying in an airplane crash is one she did not see coming.

"That's why they're working even harder than usual to make sure he's taken care of and family is taken care of," Horne said.

Officials said Maher was heading from Statesville Regional Airport to Twin Lakes Airport in Davie County.

The airport manager told Channel 9 the flight left Statesville around 9 a.m. but never arrived at its destination.

Police said the owner of the plane authorized Maher to fly the aircraft and watched it take off.

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They said the plane’s owner drove to Twin Lakes Airport to pick up Maher, but when the owner arrived, the plane was not there.

Officials said the typical flight time from Statesville to Twin Lakes Airport is 15 minutes.

When the plane did not arrive, authorities said they activated the Civil Air Patrol to conduct a search.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board arrived on scene Tuesday to investigate the cause of the crash.

NTSB Investigator Pete Wentz told Channel 9 they will be looking at the pilot, the aircraft, and the environment during their investigation.

"We have an experimental, amateur-built express 2000 aircraft," Wentz said.

The final report is not expected to be released for another 12 to 24 months.

This is an ongoing investigation. Check back with wsoctv.com for more information.

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