- Associated Press - Thursday, July 17, 2014

GREENWOOD, Ind. (AP) - Federal investigators say a private plane piloted by a vice president at mall developer Simon Property Group was making popping sounds before it crashed into two homes in suburban Indianapolis.

A preliminary report released Thursday by the National Transportation Safety Board quotes two witnesses as saying they saw the airplane trailing blue smoke during its takeoff and described the sound of the engine as “popping” or misfiring, as if there were ball bearings inside the engine.

It says the plane reached a maximum altitude of 100 to 150 feet before it crashed July 11 in Greenwood, just south of Indianapolis, killing 46-year-old William Michael Gilliland of Greenwood. Co-pilot and flight instructor Michael Joseph Elliot of Tarpon Springs, Florida, was hospitalized with serious injuries.

Gilliland had 14 years of flight experience.

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