ST. PETERSBURG — A small plane crashed as it was taking off around 3:30 p.m. Sunday from the St. Petersburg-Clearwater Airport. Neither of the private aircraft's occupants was injured.
Deputy airport director Thomas Jewsbury said the pilot and co-pilot, identified as Jeffrey Bailey, 44, and John Tucker, 28, walked away unharmed.
Pinellas County sheriff's deputies said the plane sustained "very minor damage."
While the Federal Aviation Administration has just begun to investigate the cause of the crash, Jewsbury said he believes a mechanical failure is to blame.
"When it was getting ready to take off, the pilot heard a pop and thought he blew a tire. When he tried to set it back down, the nose wheel collapsed," he said.
The plane skidded for about 1,000 feet on the runway before coming to a stop, Jewsbury said.
Sheriff's deputies said the aircraft had lifted only slightly off the runway before setting back down and losing one or more of its landing gear.
The make of plane was identified as Piaggio, an Italian manufacturer known for design features such as additional canard surfaces ahead of the cockpit and rear-facing engines.
According to the Sheriff's Office, Bailey is from New Richmond, Ohio, and Tucker is from Erianger, Kentucky.