Friends, neighbors remember pilot killed in plane crash near Covington airport

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TIPTON COUNTY, Tenn. — It was no secret. Covington airport neighbors knew when Lance Hooley was around.

Claudette Cross says she always heard him before she saw him. But the plane he built was hard to miss, because of its unique design.

"After you've been out here a while, you know how long it takes to make their round," she said.

On Saturday, she heard him in the sky, but thought nothing of the silence that came after.

"I thought he must have landed."

Cross says, usually there's buzzing while he's circling. Then the noise stops once he makes it safely on the ground.

She went inside expecting everything to be fine.

Five minutes later, she realized it wasn't.

"I walked around to the side of the house, and you could see the smoke."

She says she couldn't believe her eyes, and her heart broke at the sight.

"You had to feel like that was his passion."

Deputies said Hooley's plane crashed 2,000 yards from the Covington Municipal Airport. It was a single passenger plane.

We talked to one of Hooley's friends off-camera at the airport. He says he remembers waving to him before taking off for his flight.

He also remembers joking with him that day - a memory he'll never forget.

"It's mind-blowing to see something like that happen," neighbor Michael Cross said.

Michael Cross says he didn't hear the crash, but did see the rush to try to save Hooley.

"We heard the ambulance, fire truck and everything coming down the road."

Rob Harris, the founder of Jet Guys, posted a tribute on the company's website in memory of his close friend and business partner.

He called Hooley an incredible human being, and said the aviation world lost and incredible pilot.

"It's just sad," Michael Cross said.

On Monday, representatives with the NTSB and FAA held a press conference at the Tipton County Sheriff's Office in regards to the crash.

They revealed that the left wing of the plane came off moments before the crash.

Investigators are also trying to to figure out there is anyway Hooley could have survived the crash. As of now, investigators say he didn't make a distress call.

"The most important part of the investigation is looking at the perishable evidence. With the passage of time, it's going to get more difficult for us to examine," NTSB investigator Adam Gerhardt said.

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