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Pilot ejected during training flight; falls 2,500 feet to his death

The Zodiac XL 610 is billed as "Simple and fun to build - easy and fun to fly!"
The Zodiac XL 610 is billed as "Simple and fun to build - easy and fun to fly!"
courtesy of Zenith Aircraft Company

Just when you think you've heard it all, the seemingly impossible occurs. Take the case of an experienced, licensed pilot from Chattanooga, Tennessee who was killed on Friday when the canopy of the small private aircraft he had recently purchased opened in flight. Inexplicably, neither the aircraft owner or instructor were wearing seat belts, and the owner was ejected. He fell to his death from 2,500 feet.

Apparently, according to the instructor who was able to land the aircraft safely, a sudden dive caused the canopy to open suddenly, and, during the ensuing attempt to gain control of the aircraft, the plane's owner was ejected. The incident occurred on Friday evening, with the body being recovered early on Saturday morning.

Investigators will have their hands full determining exactly what occurred. National Transportation Safety Board experts will be looking into what caused the aircraft to nosedive, as well as how the canopy opened when it should have been locked prior to takeoff. Additionally, why both the instructor and student weren't wearing seatbelts, which is the first thing that should take place upon entering the aircraft by all occupants, will be closely investigated.

The names and ages of the aircraft's occupants have not yet been released. The training flight aboard a Zodiac 601XL home-built aircraft originated at the Collegedale Municipal Airport, (Linn-Linzer Field) east of Chattanooga. Strangely, the aircraft was purchased by the new owner after the previous owner died in another plane crash. The Zodiac and other home-built aircraft kits are developed by Zenith Aircraft Company of Mexico, Missouri.