Crews clear wreckage from Wauwatosa plane crash, pilot remains hospitalized

NOW: Crews clear wreckage from Wauwatosa plane crash, pilot remains hospitalized

WAUWATOSA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Crews and investigators cleared wreckage Friday from a Wauwatosa backyard where a small plane crashed on Thursday afternoon.

The 18-year-old student pilot is alive in critical condition.

Onlookers gathered Friday as crews loaded large pieces of the plane onto a trailer. Many of the parts were destroyed, with some onlookers saying it's a "miracle" the young pilot survived.

Flight instructor and expert, Robert Katz, researched the crash extensively.

On Air Traffic Control radio, the pilot was clearly in distress, saying his engine had failed. Katz said the elevation and acceleration of a plane can affect a pilot's response during a failure.

This plane crashed just moments after departing Timmerman Field.

"Based on where the airplane went down, it's apparent that it didn't get very high off the ground to begin with, so that does not give the pilot a whole lot of time to assess the problem," Katz said.

Flight tracking history shows the same plane flew several loops from Timmerman Field on Thursday.

A fellow pilot on the scene told CBS 58 that during touch-and-go operations, especially for training pilots, they are in contact with Air Traffic Control the entire time.

It's not uncommon for an 18-year-old trainee to be flying solo.

Katz said in the United States, trainees can fly solo at 16 with proper one-on-one training beforehand.

"He has to go through probably 50 touch-and-go's with an instructor on average before he can demonstrate proficiency at doing this by himself," Katz explained.

Once the pilot shows proficiency, they can fly solo with restrictions and constant supervision.

The FAA shows the plane involved, a two-seat Cessna 152, was built in 1979.

Katz said a 43-year-old aircraft should be undergoing regular, required maintenance.

He said if the crash was due to engine failure, the engine will likely be returned to the manufacturer, and it could be more than a year before it is assessed.

The FAA and NTSB are still investigating.

We haven't received an update on the pilot's condition.

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