Search for pilot who ejected

A student pilot was ejected from a small aircraft above an area east of Chattanooga, Tenn., in a freak accident Friday evening, and authorities were searching for him.

The accident occurred when the owner of the Zodiac 601XL plane was taking lessons from an instructor, NBC station WRCB of Nashville reported, citing police. A malfunction caused the plane to nose dive and the canopy flew open — and neither man was wearing a seat belt, WRCB reported.

The accident occurred at about 2,500 feet, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported

The instructor was able to land the aircraft back at Collegedale Municipal Airport, operations manager Chris Hancock confirmed to NBC News. He directed further questions to a Collegedale police spokesman who could not immediately be reached.

A ground search was under way in Bradley County, WRCB said. The Times Free Press said the owner-pilot had a cell phone with him and rescuers were pinging it in an attempt to find him.

Neither of the men was identified publicly by authorities.

WRCB said the plane had been owned by a man killed in a December crash and then was sold to the current owner, described as an experienced pilot who wanted more training in the Zodiac.

The Zodiac 601XL is a single-engine kit aircraft offered for home builders. Its two seats are side by side under a large domed, canopy.


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