HALF MOON BAY -- The private plane that crashed last month, killing a Florida man, slammed into a coastal bluff and burst into flames just minutes after takeoff from Half Moon Bay Airport, according to federal investigators.

The single engine plane plowed into a coastal bluff about 400 yards west of the airport around 6 a.m. on Oct. 15 and caught fire, according to a National Transportation Safety Board preliminary report released Friday. The pilot, Andrew Charles Hayden, 75, of Punta Gorda, Fla., took off in his Aeropro CZ A240 at around 5:50 a.m.

The preliminary report does not explain why the plane went down; that will be part of a final draft to be issued 12-18 months from the crash.

Authorities began looking for the plane when it didn't arrive at Marana Regional Airport outside Tucson, Ariz., and Hayden's wife reported him missing.

Photos of the crash site appear to show the plane was headed back to the airport at the time it crashed, which is supported by investigators' preliminary findings. Officials say they found a stream of debris and damaged bushes which went up from the edge of the bluff toward the airport. The debris led to a 5-foot crater where the plane came to rest farther uphill.

Hayden's body was so badly burned the coroner had to use dental records to identify him.

Contact Joshua Melvin at 650-348-4335. Follow him at Twitter.com/melvinreport.