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KUSA - The name of the pilot killed in a small plane crash in Highlands Ranch was released Tuesday.

The Douglas County Coroner's Office identified the victim as James Peoples, 60, of Littleton.

Peoples was known as "Jim" to family and friends. His experimental plane crashed in Highlands Ranch Saturday. Witnesses who saw him crash and came to help hailed him as a hero, saying it appears Peoples purposely avoided hitting the nearby shopping center.

His family released a statement saying:

"Jim died doing what he loved. He died too soon. Jim was an accomplished pilot. He spent several years flying with the Civil Air Patrol and also flew recreationally for over 30 years."

When the crash report was released, a phrase stood out: experimental plane. Pilot Richard Socash flies an experimental aircraft himself and is a member of the Longmont chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association.

"There are two basic classes of airplanes," Socash explains, "you have the commercially manufactured and the other class of airplanes are anything that anybody wants to build."

Socash's plane came in a box and took eight years to assemble. Experimental planes are closely and regularly inspected by the Federal Aviation Administration. Still, even pilots have concerns.

"Whenever the word 'experimental' comes up, it raises a red flag. Was it the pilot? Or was it the airplane?" Socash says, "It always raises the question."

According to the National Transportation Safety board, about 10 percent of all aircraft are considered experimental. In 2011, experimental planes made up 21 percent of all fatal plane accidents. A safety study conducted by the NTSB shows the cause was mostly because of equipment failure.

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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