Georgia pilot who died in crash was headed to celebrate his birthday

William Elliott McClain

Credit: Etowah County Sheriff's Office

Credit: Etowah County Sheriff's Office

Amateur pilot was headed to Arkansas to celebrate 77th birthday last week

Sheriff’s officials say a pilot whose plane crashed in Alabama on a trip from Georgia to Mississippi planned to later fly to Arkansas for his 77th birthday.

Etowah County Sheriff Jonathon Horton told The Gadsden Times search-and-rescue crews found the body of 76-year-old William Elliott McClain and his Zenith CH750 plane over the weekend behind a home in Boaz, Alabama. Boaz is about 50 miles southeast of Huntsville.

McClain of Acworth was headed to Tupelo, Mississippi, on Thursday to refuel. He reached the city, but then circled the airport and headed back toward Georgia before disappearing from radar.

ExploreBody of Georgia pilot found at plane crash site in Alabama

Search crews in helicopters and on foot looked for the aircraft in a heavily wooded area. Horton said they found the crash site Saturday morning.

A photo of a Zenith CH750. This is not the plane involved in the crash.

Credit: Via aopa.org

Credit: Via aopa.org

The crash will be investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board. McClain’s body will undergo an autopsy at the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences.

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

Authorities had been searching for the small, lightweight plane that vanished above Alabama on Thursday night after taking off from northwest Georgia, according to reports.

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The sheriff said he had spoken to the pilot’s brother, Gary McClain, who helped with the search effort. To celebrate his 77th birthday, William McClain planned to fly to Arkansas on Tuesday to visit his brother.