Troy Brothers was licensed and flying the single-engine Cessna 172 that took off about 1:40 p.m. Friday from Oakland County International Airport in Waterford Township, about 27 miles northwest of Detroit.
The pilot can be heard on LiveATC.Net saying "we're a little over weight ... we're going to have to come back and land" before the four-seat plane crashed in a field near an airport runway.
LiveATC.Net provides live air traffic-control broadcasts from control towers and radar facilities around the world, according to its website.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Lynn Lunsford confirmed Friday evening that the recording is an archive of the tower conversation.
Brothers, who lived with his family in the northern Detroit suburb of Fraser, died in the crash. His 58-year-old stepfather, James Haley, and 34-year-old brother-in-law Jamie Jose, also died in the wreckage.
Sandra Haley, Brothers' 53-year-old mother, died at an area hospital.
"It's a very sad day for the airport," said Dave VanderVeen, director of central services for Oakland County.
VanderVeen, who previously managed the airport for 25 years, said the flight was private and not business-related.
Brothers took off from a 5,600-foot runway designed for the many smaller planes that use the airport. The plane reached an altitude of about 100 feet before requesting permission to return and crashed seconds after takeoff, VanderVeen said.
Officials shut the airport down for about 2½ hours following the crash.
"All we know is the pilot requested permission to return. A few seconds later, he crashed," VanderVeen said. "This was a pleasure flight as opposed to a commercial flight. We've not been able to confirm if a flight plan was filed."
However, filing a flight plan on this type of flight is not required, he added.
The Federal Aviation Administration was en route to the airport Friday and the National Transportation and Safety Board is expected to arrive Saturday.
The Oakland County airport is used for corporate, business and private flying, VanderVeen said. It also has air charters and air freight, and is the state's second busiest airport after Detroit Metropolitan Airport, which is in the Detroit suburb of Romulus.
VanderVeen said the last fatal crash at Oakland County International was in 2006. A flight instructor and his student were killed when a single-engine plane belonging to a flight school crashed at the airport.