Howard Pardue, 77, was killed shortly after 2:00 Wednesday afternoon.
"There was a big hole where the plane had actually hit the ground. And then there was parts just scattered probably for a quarter mile," said Justin Read of the Breckenridge Fire Department.
Pardue, an experienced pilot with thousands of hours flight time, was killed shortly after taking off from the Stephens County airport. According to DPS authorities, the plane was gaining altitude when it went into a spin and crashed nose first. The debris was found just south of the airport off Highway 183 near Breckenridge.
"He was very independent. He always said he didn't want to die in a bed. He got his wish," said David Easley, a friend of Pardue's.
Easley said this isn't the first crash Pardue has been involved in.
"I did personally work a plane crash of his several years ago. I went to where the plane was, and then came back up toward the gate and there he was standing with a hankerchief on the side of his head," he recalled.
"I've been here quite a few years and I've worked probably four crashes on him," said Bob Sims, a DPS trooper who worked the crash.
Pardue was well-known in the area and instrumental in starting the Breckenridge Airshow.
"He had a lot of vintage World War Two airplanes that he had rebuilt. That was his thing, that's what he enjoyed doing," Easley said.
Friends said his loss is a tremendous one not only for his family, but for the entire Breckenridge community.
"He was such a great man. Everybody knew him, he was a friend. I had known him for as long as I can remember, and I'm going to miss him terribly," Sims said.
Authorities from the FAA and NTSB are in Breckenridge and will be investigating the crash.