Signal Mountain pilot, 82, found dead in Collegedale

Signal Mountain pilot, 82, found dead in Collegedale

December 5th, 2012 by Yolanda Putman in News

Emergency personnel gather in front of the STARS (special tactics and rescue services) truck at the Collegedale Airport to participate in a search for Clarence Andrews, 82, and his aircraft after he was reported missing early Tuesday morning. Andrews' upside-down aircraft was found in a wooded area just north of the Collegedale airport which is currently being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board. Andrews was pronounced dead.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

82-year-old Signal Mountain man Clarence Andrews

Photo by WRCB-TV Channel 3 /Times Free Press.

An 82-year-old father and pilot was found dead in Collegedale on Tuesday, still secured inside his single-engine airplane.

The plane was found upside-down in a wooded area off the north end of the Collegedale Airport runway following a seven-and-a-half-hour search.

Clarence Andrews had left the airport on Sunday.

But with single-engine aircraft, pilots are not required to report where they're going or when they will return, said Amy Maxwell, Hamilton County Emergency Medical Services' public information officer.

Airport director Chris Swain said he presumed that Andrews had flown to visit someone and planned to return.

The first sign that something might be amiss came when Swain noticed Andrews' dog and cellphone in his parked car. Swain called Andrews' daughter, Catherine Failla, of Atlanta, shortly after midnight Tuesday to tell her what he had found, said Maxwell.

"Without having a destination and an 'I'll be back at a certain time,' ... they didn't consider it being an emergency at the time," said Maxwell.

But within the hour -- around 12:45 a.m. Tuesday -- called Collegedale's 911 dispatch center to report her father missing.

Emergency officials said trying to search for Andrews at night delayed the discovery of his plane.

"You can only do so much of a ground search in the dark," said Maxwell. "Once daylight came we were able to start. But you're talking about flying over a lot of area. We didn't know if he was in this area."

To locate Andrews, Collegedale police began searching the area where his cell phone last pinged a cell tower. That was located around the 4400 block of Alabama Road, according to the news release. Police called for air assistance and the Tennessee Wing Civil Air Patrol crew began its search at about 3 a.m.

The crew found Andrews' plane at 10:30 a.m.

In a news release, Hamilton County Emergency Services described Andrews plane as a propeller-driven sport racer. The fuselage and tail are of fabric-covered steel tube construction and the wings consist of plywood over wooden ribs.

Failla and Swain could not be reached for comment.

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6431.