Airport spokesman Dave VanderVeen said the Cessna 172 went down about 1:40 p.m. Friday at Oakland County International Airport in Waterford Township. Three people aboard the private flight were killed instantly, while the fourth died later at a hospital.
VanderVeen said three of the victims were male and one was female but couldn't identify them further.
"It's a very sad day for the airport," said VanderVeen, a county official who previously managed the airport for 25 years. He added that the airport's last fatal crash was in 2006.
VanderVeen said the pilot took off from a runway designed for smaller planes and reached an altitude of about 100 feet before requesting permission to return. The plane crashed in a field.
The Federal Aviation Administration was en route to the airport and the National Transportation and Safety Board is expected to arrive Saturday.
Oakland County is the state's second busiest airport after Detroit Metropolitan Airport, which is in the Detroit suburb of Romulus.