A Huntington Beach man died Saturday afternoon when the single-engine plane he was flying crashed into the ocean off San Pedro, authorities said.
The Los Angeles County coroner's office identified the man, presumed to be the pilot, as David Hermance, 59.
The plane was performing loops just before its engine revved loudly and plunged toward the ocean nose-down, said eyewitness Ed Storti, 64.
"I was thinking he'll come out of the loop, but he continued straight down," said Storti, who then saw what he believed to be an un-inflated parachute trailing the aircraft. "He went beyond my eyesight, and I heard a loud impact that I will never forget.... It was just like hitting a stone wall."
Hermance's body was recovered off the coast near White Point, said Capt. Mark Savage of the Los Angeles County Fire Department. He said the man died on impact.
Savage said the plane, reported by the Federal Aviation Administration to be an Interavia E-3, took off from Long Beach Airport with only the pilot on board and crashed about 1:20 p.m. The crash occurred about 400 yards offshore from the 1800 block of West Paseo del Mar, Savage said.
The FAA classified the plane, which is designed for aerobatics, as experimental, which means that it was assembled by amateurs or from a kit, or was a light-sport aircraft that hadn't received a U.S. or foreign airworthiness certificate.
The wreckage of the craft was still under water Saturday, Savage said.
National Transportation Safety Board officials were expected to arrive on the scene today to launch an investigation.
According to FAA records, the plane was registered to Yakety Yak Inc. of Wilmington, Del. The plane was manufactured in 1993, records show.
In 2000, an Interavia E-3 plane with the same FAA registry number as the plane that crashed Saturday was "substantially damaged" when it made an emergency landing in a cow pasture after running out of fuel near Watsonville, Calif., according to an NTSB report.
It was not immediately clear whether the plane had changed hands since then.