A small twin-engine cargo plane crashed into a home on Chicago's southwest side Tuesday, killing the pilot but sparing a couple who were asleep just inches away.

The Aero Commander 500 slammed into the front of the home around 2:40 a.m., punching through the ground floor into the basement and leaving about a third of the mangled wreckage, including the tail, exposed outside.

"It's very lucky. They were in a bedroom next to the living room and the living room is gone," Assistant Chicago Fire Department Commissioner Michael Fox said of the home's two residents. Both told first responders they were fine and refused any medical attention.

Authorities did not immediately release the pilot's name. Crews were trying to recover the body from the wreckage. No one else was on board.

The pilot reported engine trouble shortly after taking off from Midway International Airport and asked to return to the airport. But the plane crashed about a quarter mile short of the runway, said Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory.

Fire crews found aviation fuel leaking from the wreck but there was no fire or explosion, Fox said.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating and expects to have a preliminary accident report within a week, followed by a final report in about a year.

The pilot had been intending to fly to Ohio State University Airport in Columbus, Ohio.

The aircraft was built in 1964 and owned by Central Airlines, Inc. of Fairway, Kansas, according to an FAA aircraft registry. Central said it was cooperating with investigators, but that it was still gathering information and did not know if the plane was carrying cargo at the time of the crash.

Midway is closely bounded by densely populated neighborhoods. Those living near the crash site said the impact shook houses.

"It wasn't a big boom noise," Robin Vrablic told WBBM radio. "It just shook the ground, and the chandelier had shaken, or something, so we went out the front, and went down there, and I was astounded that it took the whole front of that house out."