Federal Aviation Administration officials said the Aero Commander 500 cargo plane took off from Midway. The plane was originally headed to Chicago Executive Airport in Wheeling, but the pilot had amended his flight plan to head to Ohio State University Airport in Columbus.
PHOTOS: Small plane crashes into SW Side home after Midway takeoff
Shortly after takeoff, the pilot radioed Midway tower, reporting engine trouble.
"So I'd like to come back and land. I'm having trouble with the left engine," the pilot said, according to Live ATC.
Midway cleared him immediately for return, and a minute later the pilot acknowledged he would maneuver for runway 31 center - the last time he would communicate with Midway tower.
The plane crashed about a quarter-mile from its runway while trying to return to the airport. The pilot was found dead in the wreckage and has been identified, the medical examiner said.
"My understanding is the pilot advised air traffic control that he had some type of engine problem and he was attempting to return to the airport when he lost control of the aircraft and crashed," Tim Sorenson, air safety investigator, member of National Transportation Safety Board, said.
The twin-engine plane crashed into a two-story bungalow in the 6500-block of South Knox Avenue around 2:45 a.m. The plane crashed through the front of the building, through the living and dining rooms and into the basement, fire officials said. The elderly couple inside were not injured.
"They were in a bedroom next to the living room, and most of the plane is in the living room," said Chief Michael Fox, Chicago Fire Department. "The wreckage from them was about eight inches away from them."
The aircraft was wedged between two houses, facing nose down into the couple's house while the plane's body rested on the roof of the home next door.
A neighbor helped Roberta Rolinskas, 84, get out of her home. "I walked to the back of the yard, I jumped the fence. I opened the back door of the kitchen and I took (the woman) outside," neighbor Luz Cazares said. She said police rescued Rolinskas' husband, Raymond.
Both were able to walk away. Their son, Rick Rolinskas, said his parents both have Alzheimer's and that they are now staying with a neighbor across the street.
"They're OK. A little confused as you might, you know, think. Thank God they were in the back bedroom. They got out safe. The neighbors are real nice," Rick Rolinskas said.
"They didn't hear anything. They didn't even really know what happened. They couldn't see anything, so they didn't know what happened," Brett Rolinskas, grandson, said.
Fire officials said there was no fire or explosion, but they doused the wreckage in foam due to the fuel leak. The Chicago Water Reclamation District is looking into a possible jet fuel spill because there is concern about fuel in the water system.
The FAA and NTSB are investigating. The wreckage was delicately removed from the house Tuesday, placed on a flatbed truck and taken to a secure location where investigators will try to determine what went wrong.