Arson believed to be cause of Gastonia plane fire

GASTONIA, N.C. — A small plane erupted in flames Wednesday night on the tarmac of the Gastonia Municipal Airport.

Investigators believe arson was the cause of the fire that destroyed the $200,000 single-engine plane.

There was someone seen near the plane before it caught on fire, officials said.

A passerby saw the blaze that night and told firefighters at the nearby fire station.

The Union Road Volunteer Fire Department and the Gastonia Fire Department  arrived at the tarmac at about 9:20 p.m. and saw the entire plane engulfed in flames.

The single-engine plane, which is a total loss, is registered to someone who lives in Atlanta, officials said.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the blaze and no injuries were reported.

The plane was anchored to the tarmac, fire officials said.

"You normally don't see airplanes burn sitting on the ground,” Billy Glover, Gastonia Fire Department.

The owner flew from Gainsville, Florida and landed at the Gastonia Municipal Airport at about 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.

He said he had no mechanical problems and nine hours later, the plane burst into flames.

Investigators hope to talk to some of the first people who witnessed the fire and officials are checking security cameras around the airport.

Fire investigators said it may take several weeks before they are able to determine a precise cause.

Gaston Emergency Medical Services and the Gastonia Police Department also responded to the call.