ROCK HILL, SC (WBTV/AP) - Charlotte businessman William "Skipper" Beck died after his single-engine plane crashed at the Rock Hill/York County airport in South Carolina Friday morning.
Beck, 49, was the former owner of one of the leading Mercedes-Benz dealerships in the Southeast. He took over the business from his father who started it in 1967.
By mid-afternoon Friday, the Beck family released a statement which said that Skipper Beck died after his plane crashed upon takeoff from the Rock Hill York County Airport.
The family's statement said Beck was piloting the plane himself en route to Teterboro, N.J. and there were no other passengers."
Airport officials said Beck has a hangar at the airport where his plane was stored. Officials said Beck did not file a flight plan but they also said it really wasn't unsual on a clear day for a pilot to take off without filing one either.
Beck's piston-driven Cirrus SR 22 crashed after taking off in good weather from Runway 20 around 7:15 a.m.
Beck apparently tried to turn around, but couldn't make it back to the airport. His plane went down around the north end of the runway near Homestead Road.
Following the crash, an eyewitness said he saw a little bit of fire and smoke, but there was no major plume of smoke visible.
From Sky 3, we could see debris from the plane scattered across a wide area near Runway 20.
Around 9:15 a.m., officials at the scene loaded what appeared to be a body into a vehicle.
A source at the crash scene said the plane had a registration number of N-922XX.
According to an Internet flight tracking site, the plane flew from Teterboro, New Jersey, to Rock Hill on Wednesday. There appeared to be no mechanical problems reported with the plane.
As of Friday morning, Skipper Beck's website "Beck Aviation" had the following message posted: "I am currently flying a 2008 CIRRUS SR 22 G3 Turbo and working to get my instrument rating this summer."
The Federal Aviation Administration was at the scene most of the day and the NTSB was expected to arrive by late afternoon.
Beck's plane was a high-performance aircraft. He got his license to fly last year. Friends say his hobby for flying had turned into his passion.
There have been some concerns associated with the type of aircraft in which Beck owned.
According to the Cirrus Pilots and Owners Association website, "despite many safety improvements of the Cirrus Design, fatal accidents continue to occur."
The website goes on to say, "For the life of the fleet after the introduction of the SR20 in mid-1999, there have been 44 fatal accidents in production Cirrus SR2x aircraft."
Altogether, 88 people have died and 13 injured in crashes related to this particular type of aircraft.
The Cirrus Airframe Parachute System is responsible for 12 "saves" in which 27 people have survived with only 1 fatality, the website reports.
The news of Beck's sudden death came as a shock to many throughout the Charlotte business community Friday morning.
Robert Johnson, majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, said he knew Beck very well.
"The entire Bobcats Sports & Entertainment family mourns the loss of our partner and great friend, Skipper Beck," Johnson said. "Not only has BSE lost an energetic business champion, but so has the Charlotte business community."
Charlotte resident John Powell said he and Beck were childhood friends.
"He was a generous, fun-loving, caring guy and he had a good heart," Powell said. "He loved the car business and picked it up from his dad."
In the last year, Beck's name became associated with the Sallie Saxon prostitution ring. Court records revealed that Beck was charged with soliciting prostitution. The high-priced, call-girl ring was associated with the former website, HushHush.com.
Beck faced a misdemeanor charge of soliciting a prostitute and appeared in court on February 6. He was the first defendant to be prosecuted in state court. The other "Johns" were sentenced in federal court. The charges against Beck, however, were later dropped when he agreed to participate in a treatment program.