It happened in the 1100 block of Palestine Road, near East Reeves Bridge Road in Linden around 10:45 a.m. close to the end of a 2,850 foot runway at Flyers Airpark.
The pilot, 75-year-old Joe Guyton spent 35 years in the Air Force and the crash was the second he's walked away from. Three of his grandsons, ages 14, 11 and 10, also were on board, but they were not seriously injured.
Guyton spoke to ABC11 Eyewitness News and described what happened as he took off from the neighborhood runway.
"We were going down the runway, when we passed the point of no return," he explained. "We started losing power. I had no idea why. It was running good, had checked everything, but it fell. We jumped out and fire started spreading. We called 911."
One of Guyton's grandsons called 911 as they walked through the woods to safety. He described fire in the woods.
The 911 operator asked if anyone was trapped in the wreckage.
"No, we're all four walking through the woods, and the woods is on fire," the child replied. "The trees are burning."
"All that we got left in there right now is part of the wing and part of the motor," said Tim Mitchell with Cumberland County Emergency Services. "Everything else burned up in the fire."
Guyton says he was attempting to take his grandsons for a joy flight over the countryside.
Dan Young, who lives near the crash site, said he heard the takeoff.
"I had heard Joe when he went by the house taxiing out," Young recalled.
Young realized his neighbor crashed minutes later, when Young's wife began screaming about smoke in the woods. Young made his way to the scene of the crash and couldn't believe his eyes. Guyton was flying a Grumman Cheetah single engine aircraft.
"I asked Joe, 'Are you okay?' He was trying to talk but he was kind of in shock," Young said. "Who wouldn't be? And the three boys, they seem to be okay. I just said praise God you all are walking away from this."
Guyton and his grandsons spent four hours in the hospital for observation. Most of their scratches came from walking out of the woods. FAA investigators are trying to figure out what caused the plane to lose power.