Crews began removing the wreckage of a small plane Wednesday that crashed into a New Jersey house a day earlier, as friends of the pilot who died in the accident remembered him as a skilled flier with decades of experience.
Dr. Michael Schloss' plane crashed Tuesday morning in the Colonia section of Woodbridge Township, a suburb of New York City. He was headed from Virginia to Linden Airport, about 3 miles (5 kilometers) from the crash site. His body was removed from the wreckage on Wednesday.
Investigators said Tuesday he didn't radio a distress signal, but that air traffic controllers at Newark Liberty International Airport — who routinely guide small planes into Linden Airport, which sits a few miles to the south — lost contact with him shortly before the crash.
Paul Dudley, manager of Linden Airport and a longtime friend of Schloss', said the retired cardiologist was an accomplished pilot who also was a licensed airplane mechanic and often flew a World War II-era plane at air shows.
"This is a loss to medicine and to aviation," Dudley said. "There should be more like him."
Fellow pilot Tom Madden, who drove to the crash scene Tuesday, recounted how he helped Schloss work on the brakes of Schloss' vintage aircraft and helped him learn the ropes on a friend's plane he wanted to fly.
"Not that he needed me to check him out," Madden said. "He was top-shelf, man. He was good."
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday they expected to release a preliminary report on the crash by next week. A final report on what caused the crash could take up to two years.
The Cessna 414 crashed through the roof of one home and exploded, causing a fire that set two houses ablaze. The occupants of the house weren't home at the time, and a woman in one of the adjacent homes escaped without injury.
The flight had left Leesburg, Virginia, shortly before 10 a.m. en route to Linden Airport, where the weather was overcast and misty. Dudley said the Newark control tower called Linden after it lost contact with Schloss.
"They asked if we had him on the ground here," he said. "When they ask that, usually it's not good."