The dead man pulled from the water off Breezy Point in Queens late Wednesday after a small plane went down in the Atlantic Ocean was the only individual aboard the aircraft, the National Transportation Safety Board said at a news briefing Thursday.
The NTSB is leading the investigation into the crash of the Flight Design GMBH CTLS, a single piston aircraft that went down around 7:30 p.m. after departing Philadelphia en route to New Hampshire.
The pilot has been identified by police as James Brad McGee of Rye, New Hampshire. McGee's business partner at iCrowd, John Callaghan, told NBC 4 New York McGee was flying back from a client meeting in Philadelphia.
Heidi Moats, air safety investigator with the NTSB, said witnesses reported seeing the aircraft descend into the water.
A fuselage, pieces of fiberglass and a wheel have been recovered from the ocean about a mile and a half off Breezy Point, she said, and authorities were working to recover several more pieces of wreckage, including the engine. The items will then be documented and taken to a secure location.
Moats declined to speculate on any potential causes of the accident.
"At this point, we are looking into the man, the machine and the environment," Moats said.
Small planes like the Flight Design GMBH CTLS don't technically have flight data recorders, said Moats, but they might have memory devices or GPS.
In radio transmissions posted on Broadcastify Wednesday night, a member of the NYPD Special Operations Division is heard saying, "We just recovered part of the wing and are attempting to recover more of the airplane."
Then, "This is a confirmed plane. We are almost 90 percent sure that it is [inaudible] four- to six-passenger plane. We are standing by with what appears to be the fuselage and the tail of the plane, and we are waiting for SCUBA to arrive."
The transmissions were captured from roughly 9:15 to 9:30 p.m.
According to plane flight records obtained by NBC 4 New York, the same pilot made a hard landing in the aircraft two years ago. The FAA found it was due to pilot error.
The investigation into Wednesday's plane crash remains in a very early stage in the process, however. Moats said a preliminary report on the crash would be issued in about 10 days with a full report expected in about a year.