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Pilot remembered as detail-oriented

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As a pilot, he was careful and more serious than others about caring for his plane and planning his flights around weather and where he would stop, an airport official said.

William Michael Gilliland, 46, was an experienced pilot.

For his 30th birthday, his wife, Angie, got him his first flight lesson, and soon after in 1998 he earned his pilot’s license. Most recently, he was working on getting his instrument rating, which would certify that he could fly an aircraft using just the gauges in the plane through clouds or storms.

“He was a person who showed a lot of attention to detail,” airport manager Rusty Nichols said.

Gilliland died after his plane crashed into the Lakeview neighborhood Friday afternoon, less than a quarter-mile from where it took off at the Greenwood Municipal Airport.

The plane was in the air for only minutes, and airport employees noticed it was smoking and didn’t sound right after take-off, according to a news release from the coroner’s office.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.

Gilliland, who lived in the Center Grove area, was vice president of business transformation at Simon Property Group. He also was active at SS. Francis & Clare Catholic Church, where he helped found the church’s school and develop its technology program and served on the school board. He and his wife have two daughters, Grace and Sophie.

He had bought the single-engine 1991 Mooney aircraft a couple years ago, the coroner’s release said. He was a member of the Mooney Aircraft Pilots Association and loved aviation and technology.

On Friday, Gilliland and his flight instructor, Michael Elliott, were headed to Texas for the plane’s annual inspection. Elliott also was on the flight because Gilliland was working to get his instrument rating, according to the coroner’s release. Elliott was in critical condition Sunday afternoon at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital.

The plane was in the air fewer than two minutes, and then crashed, striking two homes and landing in a backyard just south of the airport, Greenwood Assistant Police Chief Matt Fillenwarth said. Officials said the plane lost power shortly after take-off.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash. In every fatal plane crash, the federal board sends an investigator to interview witnesses and check paperwork, such as the flight plan, spokesman Peter Knudson said. The federal agency typically sends a company to retrieve the plane. Workers hauled away the plane Saturday afternoon.

Preliminary autopsy results show Gilliland died from crash injuries, and also had burns from the plane catching fire, Chief Deputy Coroner Dave Lutz said. The coroner’s investigation will be finished once the office gets results from toxicology tests, which are required for fatal accidents. The standard tests show whether a person was impaired by medication or any other substance.

Investigators will study the pieces of the plane to check, for example, if the flight controls were working in the air and if the aircraft lost pieces, such as a tail, before crashing, Knudson said. A full investigation of a fatal crash typically takes 12 months, he said.

The investigation also will check what the weather conditions were, the plane’s maintenance history and the pilot’s medical history to look for any factors that could have caused the crash. The investigation also considers whether a pilot was fatigued, pilot licenses and ratings and flight experience, Knudson said.

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