Pilot William E McClain.jpg

William McClain

The body of an Acworth pilot was discovered Saturday in Alabama, along with the wreckage of his plane, authorities say.

William McClain, 76, was reported missing Thursday after he failed to return from a test flight of his Zenith CH 750 aircraft, which he had built and was licensed to fly, according to a news release from the Etowah County (Alabama) Sheriff’s Office.

McClain had taken off from Calhoun, according to the Gadsden Times. Calhoun is about 51 miles north of Marietta.

The newspaper reports McClain’s plane was last seen on radar at 12:45 p.m. Thursday.

According to the news release, “On the date the flight became missing, it appears the plan was to test flight the aircraft from Georgia to Tupelo, (Mississippi), and refuel and return to Georgia.

“It appears that the aircraft reached Tupelo, however, it circled the airport without fueling and returned back toward Georgia leaving the radar at approximately 12:47 p.m. on Thursday in the area of the recovery,” the release continues.

The test flight was intended to prepare for a longer flight in which McClain planned to visit his brother in Arkansas Tuesday for their shared birthday, the release said.

Search and rescue personnel found the missing aircraft and pilot in a heavily wooded area in the western part of Etowah County, Alabama, at about 10:30 Saturday morning, the release states. The location is about 15 miles north of Gadsden, Alabama, and roughly 115 miles west of Marietta.

Karl Von Hagel, manager of Cobb County International Airport-McCollum Field, was McClain’s friend and neighbor for about three decades.

Von Hagel said McClain had built his own aircraft, and flew it for about two years. McClain got his pilot’s license about four years ago, and assembled the plane in his garage, his friend said.

“We talked about airplanes all the time,” he said. “He was taking a cross-country flight, and didn’t come back. It’s sad.”

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the cause of the crash and will be responsible for the removal of the aircraft, according to the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office. After an autopsy, McClain’s body will be returned to Acworth, the release further states.

“There does not appear to be (any) foul play and the incident appears to be a tragic accident,” the release concludes.

Emily Boorstein is the night editor at the Marietta Daily Journal. Contact her at emboorstein@mdjonline.com

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