NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday it is investigating whether dense fog played a role in the deadly crash of a small plane at a Tennessee airport, where the wreckage went undiscovered for several hours.
The Cessna 172 single-engine plane crashed sometime after 3 a.m. CDT Tuesday at Nashville International Airport. But the crash apparently wasn't reported until a pilot in another plane saw the wreckage around 8:45 a.m., NTSB officials have said.
Air safety investigator Jay Neylon told reporters at a news conference on Wednesday that the fog was very dense around that time, "and that's one thing we will look at closely."
He said investigators plan to listen to air traffic control tapes to determine whether there was any communication between the control tower and the pilot, who was the only one aboard the plane. A medical examiner has confirmed that Michael Callan was the pilot, according to Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority spokeswoman Shannon Sumrall, who had no other details.
The Transport Canada website shows the plane was last registered to the Windsor Flying Club in Ontario, Canada.
WTVF-TV in Nashville spoke to Callan's sister, Jody Quenneville, by phone from her home in Ontario on Wednesday.
"He was an aspiring pilot who loved to fly," Quenneville said. "We only just learned from authorities that he died."
She said he was not married and had no children. She said the family doesn't know how he ended up in Nashville, and that they're in a state of shock.
Neylon said the investigation will also look into the pilot's experience, including whether he was trained to fly using only instruments, which probably would have been necessary in the dense fog.
When asked by reporters if he thought it unusual for the wreckage to go unnoticed for so long, Neylon said he couldn't comment. However he did say a sweep of the runway near the wreckage was done around 2 a.m. before the crash.
In a statement following the news conference, the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority didn't reference the length of time before the wreckage was discovered, but it did stress that its "top priority is the safety and security of all operations at the airport."
"MNAA has long maintained a strong record of safety and follows stringent federal safety regulations," the agency said. "We have inspectors and crash, fire and rescue personnel on duty 24 hours per day, 365 days per year to respond in the event of any emergency."
Neylon said a preliminary report could be released in about 10 days. The Federal Aviation Administration is also investigating, but a representative declined to comment.