A small airplane caught fire and crashed Wednesday in a church parking lot shortly after leaving Flying Cloud Airport in Eden Prairie, killing the pilot.

Police and fire personnel were on the scene where the plane crashed, in a wooded area next to the Resurrection Life Church parking lot at 16394 Glory Lane. That’s just north of Hwy. 212 and 2½ miles from the airport.

Law enforcement asked motorists to stay clear of the area. Authorities say the pilot was the only fatality.

“We did hear information from the airport that they did say there was a fire on board,” police Lt. Bill Wyffels said.

A witness “saw the plane go into a circle right before it went down,” Wyffels added.

The mangled and charred wreckage outside the church sent gray smoke skyward that nearby traffic control cameras picked up. Authorities including the Minnesota State Patrol and Eden Prairie police were on the scene, where a large piece of debris was wrapped around a lamppost and a red screen was set up, shielding the wreckage.

There were no passengers and no other injuries or property damage resulting from the crash. “It is fortunate that it did not hit a building and landed in the parking lot,” Wyffels said. “There were no cars in close proximity.”

Federal Aviation Administration records show that the Fisher Horizon 2 aircraft is an “experimental ... amateur built” plane with one engine. It is owned by a man from Richfield, according to the FAA’s aircraft registry, but authorities have yet to disclose any information about the person on board.

In 2006, the man joined Chapter 25 of the Experimental Aircraft Association and noted in a newsletter want ad then that he was in the market for instruments for an aircraft project he was working on “almost daily.”

Along with the FAA, the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash.

Authorities said an employee at an electrical company across the street from the crash saw the plane circling twice before it crashed. Chad Willard, an assistant funeral director at nearby Huber Funeral Home & Cremation, said he was in his office when he heard the crash.

“It was an impact and then the explosion; it was out of the ordinary,” said Willard, who went outside to see the debris and flames. He said he did not hear any engine sound before the crash.