A Scottsdale pilot crashed a plane Friday night into Lake Pleasant after flying as low as 10 feet above the water and talking on a cell phone, the Federal Aviation Administration said.
The crash occurred around 8 p.m. at the lake northwest of Peoria after the pilot buzzed a friend who was below him on a boat, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said.
Gregor would not identify the pilot and said investigators are assuming two people were aboard the plane, which sank in about 100 feet of water.
Divers from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office searched the lake Saturday and found portions of the wreckage but no bodies. Both are assumed dead.
“We have suspended dive operations for the weekend,” sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Paul Chagolla said. “We will resume Monday.”
Chagolla said conditions at Lake Pleasant were too dangerous and busy for the divers.
FAA investigators said the pilot was talking on a cell phone to a friend who was on a boat on the lake.
“We understand that the pilot asked a friend to shine a flashlight over the sky so the pilot could locate the boat,” Gregor said. “When the friend in the boat looked up, the plane crashed right in front of him.”
Gary Lewin, president of Scottsdale-based Southwest Flight Center, said the single engine, four-passenger plane was rented to a regular customer Friday night. Lewin said he would not identify the man because of company policy. Lewin confirmed that the pilot was a Scottsdale resident who was “a well-versed and very accomplished pilot” with more than 10,000 hours of flight time.
Gregor confirmed that the unidentified pilot has an air transportation pilot rating — the highest available.
“The FAA told me he was buzzing boaters on the lake and rocking the wings back and forth in a motion to signal to a boat,” Lewin said. “The wing hit the water and the aircraft cart wheeled.”
Lewin called the pilot’s actions “a nonstandard procedure.”
“All I did was rent him the aircraft,” he said. “What happened next was in his hands.”