Pilot radioed emergency before crash

TIMELINEPrevious crashes at the Collegedale Airport:March 2013: Loca75l resident David Richardson,77, fell out of an aircraft and was killed after the canopy came loose in flight. The instructor pilot landed the plane.December 2012: Clarence Andrews, 82, of Signal Mountain, crashed his home built aircraft and died.December 2004: A single-engine plane crashed but the lone pilot walked away.December 2004: Five leaders of the Seventh- day Adventist Church in Tennessee and Georgia died when their twin-engine plane crashed just after takeoff.

photo Investigators look at the wreckage of a single-engine plane that crashed Wednesday afternoon in a field near Ooltewah Industrial Drive. The plane's pilot was killed in the crash.

The pilot of a small plane radioed an air traffic controller for help minutes before his plane crashed Wednesday afternoon.

"I've got oil all over my windshield and am going to need some help for line-up," the pilot said matter-of-factly as he asked Chattanooga Approach Control for an emergency landing.

At 3:14:41 p.m., air traffic control gave directions to a runway at the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport.

A minute later, the pilot said in a rushed voice, "We're not going to make it."

ATC immediately redirected the pilot to the Collegedale Airport, which they said was just three miles from the plane's location.

At 3:16:14 p.m. the pilot responded, "I can't see that. I can't see that either, sir."

"It appears you're tracking directly towards Collegedale [Airport]," ATC responded.

"Looks like we're not going to make it," the pilot said in a steady voice.

That was the last thing he said before the single-engine Lancair IV-P dived into a field in the 9500 block of Ooltewah Industrial Drive, around two miles from the Collegedale Airport.

At 3:17:27 p.m., ATC asked another pilot flying nearby if he could see any additional plane traffic.

"I'm looking and I don't see anything. I see a lot of clouds. A scattered layer. I don't see any traffic," the other pilot said.

By this time, the Lancair was down in a grassy field surrounded by industrial buildings and trees.

The plane crashed on the back third of the baseball-field sized tract and skidded a little after contact with the ground. The plane's nose and the front part of the fuselage were smashed, almost non-existent. The pilot died in the crash. His name had not been released by late Wednesday night.

Emergency responders quickly blocked the field off with yellow police tape.

The pilot was the only person aboard the blue-and-white four-seater, said David Myrick, public information officer for the Collegedale Police Department.

The aircraft was registered to Empire Equipment LLC, a Knoxville-based construction company. According to online flight records, the plane left Knoxville and was headed to Jackson, Miss.

Contacted Wednesday evening, Empire President Rick Cheverton said he hadn't been notified about the crash.

David Smith is president of Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 150, whose members are based at the Collegedale Airport.

"Accidents like this are just a shame," Smith said.

He had seen a picture online from the crash scene and said that the plane made "impact at a severe, sharp angle, and it appears from this that the engine was not operating correctly."

"Looking at the plane's record, this is a top-shape plane," Smith said. "Not a plane known for engine failure."

According to online records, the plane was built in 2000 and Empire bought it in 2007. Since then, the Lancair had logged more than 1,300 hours, including about 200 in the last year. The plane had a total flight time of 2,378 hours.

The plane was listed for sale at www.controller.com for $219,000 at the time of the crash. Empire Equipment claimed to have "very detailed maintenance records," and that the plane had "some damage history."

Myrick said the Federal Aviation Administration was sending a team to the crash site but they had not arrived by late Wednesday night.

Amy Maxwell, spokeswoman for Hamilton County Emergency Services, said the team was caught in heavy traffic.

Contact staff writer Kendi Anderson at kendi.anderson@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6592.