Body of pilot who fell 2,500 feet from plane found in Tennessee

NASHVILLE, Tennessee Sat Mar 30, 2013 3:54pm EDT

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NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) - Search crews in rural Tennessee have found the body of a man who fell an estimated 2,500 feet to his death after the cockpit canopy of his airplane opened, officials said on Saturday.

"They found him in a tree line, not too far off the road," about a half-mile from a volunteer fire station, said Bob Gault, spokesman for the Bradley County Sheriff's Office.

Gault said he would have to wait until the National Transportation Safety Board completes an investigation before confirming reports that the man was not wearing his safety harness and that the plane had gone into a nosedive at the time of the accident late on Friday afternoon.

Emergency personnel from Bradley County as well as a Tennessee Highway Patrol helicopter were called into the search for the missing man after his co-pilot was able to fly the plane back to Collegedale Municipal Airport after the accident, according to Gault.

Local reports said that man who died was an experienced pilot who was being trained to fly the plane, which he had recently purchased.

Gault said the single-engine aircraft left Collegedale Municipal Airport just outside Chattanooga between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Friday. The flight path took them over southern Bradley County, a rural area with many farms and few communities.

"There were two pilots on board," Gault said. "At some point during their flight, the canopy on the aircraft malfunctioned and, as a result, one of the pilots was ejected."

Search efforts from the air and on the ground were unsuccessful Friday night and resumed on Saturday morning. Gault said the fact that the body was in a tree line probably kept it from being spotted from the air.

The names of the pilots involved have not been released. A worker at the airport who asked not to be identified said both men were experienced pilots and "real nice guys."

(Editing by Nick Carey and Gunna Dickson)

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Comments (7)
The pilot’s death is tragic it was preventable: In practically every Pre-Flight checklist for every aircraft, one of the instructions is “Buckle and tighten your seatbelt.” Unless there was a mechanical failure of the seatbelt (unlikely), the pilot either didn’t buckle-up or unbuckled after takeoff.

Mar 30, 2013 4:43pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
elhamb3166 wrote:
This aircraft is a ‘DIY’ or ‘kit-built’ design and has been in the FAA’s sights for some time. Although not wearing the seatbelt was a bad idea, the fact that the canopy opened during flight points out the dangers inherent in a non-factory built aircraft.

Mar 30, 2013 7:00pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
I agree with 21st_C-man that pre-flight check list reminds them to buckle up. Other news orgs reported it was a student pilot that was ejected from the plane. Why would an “experienced” pilot disregard the safety checklist or unbuckle his belt after take off?? Its more likely this report is sloppy journalism; writer Tim Ghianni neglected to confirm and check reliability of his sources before writing up his report. Plane was a Zodiak 601, a side-by-side twin seater with a single engine.

Mar 30, 2013 7:11pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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