A handful of local pilots talked quietly with each other outside the Collegedale Municipal Airport office Sunday afternoon as officials from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board inspected a grim scene several hundred yards away.
The airport reopened to flights Sunday, but a somber mood remained as officials investigated the Saturday crash that killed the pilot's mother and son.
Collegedale police said Suzanne Silver and her juvenile grandson died from injuries they sustained when the 1964 Mooney M20E flown by Todd Silver of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., crashed along the 5,000-foot runway on a scorching day in the rolling hills near the Bradley County line.
Todd Silver and his juvenile daughter were airlifted to Erlanger hospital from the scene. Todd Silver runs an airplane canopy business called Todd's Canopies, according to his Facebook page.
NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss said a preliminary report on the crash will be released in seven to 10 days, while the full investigation will take a year.
Meanwhile, others with experience flying out of Collegedale were left to wonder what caused the tragedy.
A crew worked Sunday to put what remained of the wrecked aircraft on a flatbed truck so it could be taken to a hangar to allow investigators to get a better look at the wreckage.
"I've been flying here about nine years," pilot Ed Jones said. "This is a great airport, but it can be challenging with the way the wind can come across the mountains. Anybody who has flown out of here certainly understands that. But I've had about 900 landings here."
It's unclear if Todd Silver had ever landed at Collegedale Municipal Airport. Speculation abounded among aviation veterans Sunday about how weather conditions such as heat and wind could have adversely affected an otherwise routine landing.
"Yesterday was a very hot day, a very humid day. And those two factors, along with higher density altitude, really all three of those play into a degradation of aircraft performance," said veteran pilot Morty Lloyd, who lives next to the airport.
"But a general aviation aircraft is very, very safe" he said. "Most general aviation accidents happen because of human error. I'm not saying this was human error. NTSB will have to make that determination."
But all agreed it was a tragedy and said, generally speaking, flying is a safe means of transportation.
"This doesn't deter you at all, does it?" Jones asked Blain Reynolds, a local dentist and pilot-in-training, as the two walked back to the airport office after taking a distant look at the wreckage.
"Being a student pilot, my perspective is still that flying is one of the safest ways to travel," Reynolds said. "But you hear about every plane crash."
Contact staff writer David Cobb at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6249.
This story was updated at 10:30 p.m. with additional details.