Cockpit Smoke May Have Downed Piper Cheyenne

Investigators say the pilot of a twin-turboprop Piper Cheyenne that crashed short of the runway at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport on Sunday reported smoke in the cockpit minutes before the airplane went down in a wooded area in a south Florida nature preserve.

All four people were killed in the crash at about 4:25 p.m. local time. According to audio from the FXE tower, a controller cleared the sticken Cheyenne to land on any runway. Moments later the pilot can be heard radioing "Mayday, Mayday, Mayday" before the recording ends with a scream. Witnesses reported seeing the airplane nose diving into the ground and exploding.

The charred wreckage of the Piper PA-31-T1 has been recovered from the crash site near the airport. National Transportation Safety Board investigators say the 1979 Cheyenne took off from Orlando Executive Airport for the flight to Fort Lauderdale with no signs of trouble until the airplane was preparing to land.

The crash startled nearby residents but missed homes and businesses in the densely populated residential neighborhoods that surround FXE, according to local news reports.

The NTSB is expected to release a preliminary report on the crash in about a week.

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