The crash happened just before 6pm in front of the popular Mama’s Daughters’ Diner in Prestonwood Park off West Park Boulevard in Plano.
Despite crashing into the mall parking lot where most businesses were still open, no injuries were reported on the ground.
However, the pilot, who was the sole passenger in the small Mooney M20 plane, died in the accident. He has not been publicly identified, pending notification of his next of kin.
An unoccupied parked vehicle was also destroyed in the fire.
Dramatic videos by witnesses and local reporters captured roaring flames and black smoke rising into the air, with firefighters battling to extinguish the blaze.
One witness said she was inside the nail salon next door to the diner when she heard a loud boom right outside.
“When I came out, there was a lot of smoke, and later I heard a noise again,” Kiu Nguyen told CBS News. "It was so scary.”
An extensive investigation is now under way by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board to determine how the crash unfolded.
The plane crashed less than half a mile away from the Air Park-Dallas Airport, a small single-runway airport in the middle of the busy suburban area, though it is unclear if the aircraft was trying to land there.
“We do not know where the aircraft was destined, whether they were going to this landing strip that is really close or Addison [airport]. We don’t really have that information right now,” Plano Fire Department Lt Daniel Daly told reporters.
A flight record obtained by NBC Newsshows that the small plane approached the area from the west before making a large loop around the Air Park-Dallas Airport.
Witnesses who had listened to the air traffic control communications told the outlet that the pilot sounded lost and confused before the crash.
Shawn Anderson, a witness who was driving by at the time, said he noticed the plane flying in an unusual manner.
“The plane made a turn like he was going up but didn’t look right,” Mr Anderson told CNN.
When he looked back, the plane had crashed and a huge plume of black smoke was rising into the air, he said.
The Independent has contacted the FAA and the NTSB for further information.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies