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Details emerge in Chattanooga student pilot's death

4:22 PM, Apr 6, 2013   |    comments
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COLLEGEDALE, TENN. - An initial federal air safety report details an investigation into the death of a Chattanooga student pilot who fell from a newly purchased plane.

WRCB-TV reported 77-year-old David Richardson, who plunged 2,500 feet to his death in Collegedale, had at one point unbuckled his seat belt.

The report from the National Transportation Safety Board states Richardson and his flight instructor had requested a battery boost to start the plane and Richardson unbuckled his belt to help a ground crew but didn't get out of the cockpit.

The report said Richardson again buckled his harness and the instructor took off.

The canopy came off in flight, the plane dived and Richardson was thrown out.

The investigators' report said the experimental amateur-built Zodiac craft was purchased by Richardson, and his flight instructor made two solo flights to familiarize himself with the plane before taking Richardson up.

As Richardson and the instructor prepared to fly together, the plane wouldn't start. The NTSB report said Richardson unbuckled his belt to summon help but was told to stay in the cockpit so he put the belt back on.

The flight instructor said he thought he heard it click but couldn't see the buckle because of the center console.

When the canopy came off and the plane dived, Richardson was lifted out of his seat and flew out of the craft. Searchers found his body in a wooded area. The instructor was able to land the plane.

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