PHOENIX - We're learning new information about the likely cause of the plane crash that killed six people. Highly placed aviation sources with intimate knowledge of the investigation say the leading theory is that the aircraft was overweight and simply lost lift during takeoff.
23-year-old Mariah Coogan, one of the six people killed in the crash, posted a video moments before the plane took off.
Sources tell FOX 10 that investigators believe the Piper PA-24 Comanche was likely overloaded, and with passengers and luggage in the back of the airplane, it also was out of balance with too much weight in the rear.
Sources say one of the telling signs was the takeoff. The plane seemed to rise just feet off the runway, not gaining any altitude. It alarmed the person in the tower to the point where she radioed the pilot, asking if there was trouble.
Tower: "Comanche 5 6 ... experiencing any difficulty?"
Pilot: "Ah, we're good.. we're just in training mode."
Moments later, the plane crashed.
Too much weight in the rear of an airplane makes it easier to stall an aircraft, harder to recover and increases the chances it will go into a spin.
Sources say the pilot likely saw the 30-foot tall berm that lines the Central Arizona Project Canal just across Bell Road -- 300 yards or so from the end of the runway. The pilot likely pulled back on the stick to clear the berm, putting the airplane in a stall, where there isn't enough air flowing over the wings to keep it aloft.
Sources believe the plane listed to the left, inverted and crashed nose first into the ground on the second hole of the TPC Champions Golf Course. The small, confined area of wreckage would confirm this.
Early examination of the propeller marks indicate it was turning on impact, meaning the engine was working properly at the time of the crash.
In the final moments, the plane would have been shaking as it went into stall, with the air horn sounding that the plane did not have sufficient airspeed.
Adding to the lift problems for an overnight airplane, the temperature was warm that night, near 90 degrees -- that makes it even harder to get off the ground.