The pilot in the fatal plane crash Aug. 14 at Mount Pleasant Regional Airport did not hold a flight instructor certificate, according to a preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board.
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A scholarship fund for aspiring flight students has been set up in memory of Matthew Gaither. To contribute, send donations to: Matthew Gaither Aviation Scholarship Fund, 2205 Shoreline Dr., Johns Island, S.C. 29455. Contributors can also make donations at Wells Fargo branches.
The NTSB said Federal Aviation Administration records showed pilot Graham Borland held a commercial pilot certificate, but he did not hold an instructor certificate.
Borland, 33, of North Charleston, and flight student Matt Gaither, 20, of Johns Island, died in the crash just short of the runway after takeoff for the training flight.
The NTSB report did not speculate on a cause of the crash. A report that includes a probable cause of the accident usually takes a year and sometimes longer.
But the preliminary report noted accounts of the takeoff and the crash.
Witnesses said the Cessna 150M began its takeoff with the flaps at 40 degrees, made it off the ground and "immediately looked unstable," according to the NTSB.
The report said the wings were banking to the right and left.
"When the airplane reached an altitude about 100 feet above ground level, it entered a continuous left turn and subsequently rolled wings level on a westerly heading," the report said. "The airplane then entered a nose down attitude followed by a right wing low attitude and was in a 'straight downward dive' when it impacted the ground."
The plane crashed in a vertical, nose-down position in sparse vegetation about 1,100 feet northwest of the runway.
"All major components of the aircraft were accounted for at the accident site," the report said. "The initial impact point was about 3 feet forward of the main wreckage. The wings remained attached to the fuselage and exhibited leading edge crush damage that spanned the entire length of each wing."
The report also noted that Borland held a first-class medical certificate issued in May 2012, when he reported 275 total flight hours.
Cole Gaither, Matt's father and a partner in Hanger Aviation which owned the plane, said Wednesday he thought Borland already had his flight instructor certification.
"We just found out today that he didn't," Gaither, a pilot said.
He said Borland was scheduled to take his "check ride" at the end of August, which would have given him his credentials.
"He was an ambitious young man who got a little ahead of himself," Gaither said. "He made a bad decision. It's a sad, sad situation."
He said witnesses' reports that the flaps were at 40 degrees at takeoff meant it was set up for landing.
"They got off the ground, and that's amazing in itself," Gaither said. "That's probably why the plane didn't want to fly."
He said when the pilot probably noticed the error and turned back toward the runway, it increased the airspeed.
"It's devastating to do it at 100 feet," Gaither said.
Instead of flying ahead and slowly raising the flaps, Gaither said Borland probably raised them straight up and the stall increased dramatically.
"That's why it went straight down so much," he said.
Matt Gaither graduated from James Island Charter High School in 2012. He was a linebacker on the football team and also was on the wrestling team. He was taking flight lessons to improve his chances of getting into special forces, according to his father.
Clark Hanger, who is a partner of Cole Gaither's at Hanger Aviation, said the Cessna had been on loan to Matt Gaither and the flight instructor.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.