OXFORD, Miss. — Lake Little, the 18-year-old pilot who passed away after a crash landing just two days ago, was an accomplished student looking to fly for a living.
The exact plan is unclear — maybe it was FedEx, or the Air Force, or something entirely different. But those close to Little have described the 18-year-old as someone whose identity became attached to flying, which makes Saturday’s crash all the more puzzling.
“It was an incredibly important piece of her life, she was looking at making it a career," Starkville, Mississippi Mayor Lynn Spruill said. "This was one of the things that she loved to do and she was on the path to do that.”
While Lake found a lot of success in her young life through academics, athletics and pageants, those in Starkville say they’ll miss her spirit the most.
"She was a wonderful ambassador for our community," Spruill said. “Lake was very engaged in all things Starkville, as was her family. It’s just an incredible loss to us as a community as well as her family.”
Investigators are now beginning the slow, careful process of gathering every bit of information from radio and radar logs, picking apart the crash site and listening to witness testimony.
It will be a long process for the National Transportation Safety Board, the group charged with investigating the deadly crash. Although the plane was badly damaged, they say they’ll be able to use the plane cables to tell if little had control when it went down.
Ed Malinowski, air safety investigator with NTSB, said investigators can tell if those cables were connected or not, and that will tell them if if the pilot had control of the aircraft.
He said his understanding was that Little was a student pilot who would have been endorsed by an instructor to go out on solo flights.
Little was flying a plane owned by the Civil Air Patrol. WREG reached out to the group, but they referred us to a new statement released Monday, which in part reads: “it’s hard to put into words how much of a tragedy this is, and how deep of a loss it is. Such a loss affects all of us on different levels and different ways.”
Little was flying a Cessna 172 plane, widely labeled as the most popular single-engine plane ever. The company website calls it “the ultimate training aircraft.”
We also researched the history of the specific plane that Little was flying. Built in 1997 and owned by the Civil Air Patrol, we couldn’t find any issues or causes for concern.
Golfers using the course on the day of the accident claim they frequently see those planes flying overhead.
“We do see the planes go up and down every day, every morning, and of all different sizes,” said Da Magee, who golfs at the course.
Although early results for a crash report won’t take long, a final conclusion could be more drawn out.
"I’ll have a preliminary report on the Internet in about a week and my final report can take anywhere from six months to a year,” Malinowski said.