A 69-year-old Hampshire man who died Sunday when the small, single-engine aircraft he was piloting crashed upon takeoff from an airstrip west of Elgin had a passion for planes and flying.
Frank Kehoe was an avid pilot, with more than 1,000 hours logged, according to longtime friend Deborah Hill of Elgin.
Local and federal authorities are investigating the crash, the cause of which was not immediately known.
Authorities said Kehoe was flying an Experimental Skykits aircraft when it crashed about 1:30 p.m. under unknown circumstances at Olson Aviation near Plato Center. He was the only person aboard the plane as he attempted a takeoff from the one-runway private airport nestled between farms at 9N776 Kendall Road.
The plane crashed in an open field next to the runway, just east of Route 47, and landed upside down.
Jerry Swanson was outside his house across the street from the airport shortly before 1:30 p.m. Sunday when he saw the plane taxiing. He later heard a big crash and, with his 14-year-old son JJ, looked across the street to see Kehoe's plane upside down.
Swanson and his wife, Plato Township Supervisor Kathleen Swanson, hurried across the street and called 911. While they were waiting, they held the plane up to get pressure off Kehoe's head and body.
Pingree Grove emergency responders arrived in about five minutes, the Swansons said.
"They got here as quick as they could have," Kathleen Swanson said, but there was nothing anyone could do to help Kehoe.
Witnesses said that after takeoff, Kehoe's airplane only got as high as a barn next to the runway before the small aircraft started wobbling and then crashed. Kane County Sheriff's police did not know where Kehoe was flying to.
The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration will continue the accident investigation. The plane will be reconstructed and analyzed to figure out what caused the crash, but Aviation Safety Investigator Jim Silliman said it could take up to a year to come to a conclusion.
Silliman and others will inspect the plane itself, as well as analyze the maintenance records and research Kehoe's training and background as a pilot during the course of the investigation.
Hill said Kehoe owned several planes and flew regularly in his free time.
"That was his passion: Planes."