Friend: "The community has lost a great man" - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Friend: "The community has lost a great man"

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COLLEGEDALE, TN. (WRCB) -- Search crews took to the air Tuesday morning, after a plane and its pilot were reported missing.

First responders discovered the plane's wreckage not far from the Collegedale Municipal Airport.

Its pilot, an 82-year-old Signal Mountain man, was pronounced dead on the scene.

When Clay Ingle's team got the call for a ground search, he knew they'd be looking for one of their own.

"Clarence is a big part of our team," Ingle says. "We're more than a rescue team, we're a big family."

The 82-year-old retired engineer had not been seen since Sunday, when he took off in his homemade Cassutt Sport Racer.

His daughter told police he'd recently reassembled it and was likely taking it up for a test run.

"Collegedale airport, you just check in when you leave and check in when you land," Ingle says. "And the way his car was parked nobody could see it. So when he took off, they just thought he came back."

It wasn't until Tuesday morning airport personnel noticed his dog and truck in the parking lot.

The airport director called Andrews' daughter, who called police, saying she feared her father crashed.

"They got that information from the ping on his Verizon cell phone and searched that area," says Amy Maxwell, with Hamilton County EMS.

Andrews' plane was found, just north of the runway, upside down, with his body was inside.

"The community has lost a great man," Ingle says. "He was so full of life, so knowledgeable, and helped so many people."

Clay Ingle remembers Andrews and his dog Abby making a crucial discovery a few years ago.

"In Marion County, we had a gentleman we were looking for and Clarence's dog found him," Ingle says.

If he wasn't helping others, he was in the air.

Ingle says he died doing what he loved.

"It will make us a stronger, better team for it," Ingle says. "We'll be stronger, and we'll honor Clarence in that way."

The small plane Andrews was flying is not required to have an emergency transmitter.

It is too soon to tell if Andrews crashed while landing or during takeoff.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating, while the medical examiner conducts an autopsy to learn more.

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