Federal Aviation Administration records show that the pilot, 17-year-old Jordan Ryan Smith of Jasper, received a student pilot certificate in February 2012. The FAA pointed to regulations that say "a student pilot may not act as pilot in command of an aircraft that is carrying a passenger."
FAA regulations also require a pilot to have a multi-engine rating to fly a twin-engine plane like the Piper PA 30 that crashed shortly after 10:30 p.m. Tuesday in a swampy, wooded area about a mile south of the Walker County Airport.
Smith's mother, Sherrie Smith, said Wednesday he was one test away from having his pilot's license. She said she talked to him by cell phone about 10 p.m. Tuesday and he said he would be in by his 11:30 p.m. curfew. She said she knew he was out with friends, but did not know they had gone to the airport.
Also killed in the crash were 17-year-old Jordan Seth Montgomery and 19-year-old Brandon Tyler Ary, both of Arley.
None of the victims owned the plane. Authorities have not released the name of the owner.
Airport manager Edwin Banks said the plane departed from the small airport about 10:30 p.m. in overcast skies and a low cloud ceiling. "It was a student pilot flying an airplane without permission, an airplane that he was not qualified to fly at night," Banks said Wednesday.
Sherrie Smith said Wednesday her son knew the owner and had a key to the plane, as well as the access code to the electronic gate providing access to the plane parking area.
Chief Deputy Sheriff James Painter said Thursday that officials from the National Transportation Safety Board were gathering pieces of the wreckage for their investigation and there was no determination yet on the cause of the crash.