The plane crash that claimed the life of Kent Shiling was discovered Tuesday evening, and one of the people who discovered the crash was a long-time friend of the victim.
Shilling was expected to return to the Lebanon-Springfield Airport late Monday night, and he had a meeting scheduled with Chris “Doc” Bailey, a fellow aviator and president of the Central Missouri University Aviation Alumni Association. Bailey said he has known Shilling for 10 years.
“We had spent two days together before the accident. I drove in to Springfield about 6 or 7 p.m. Sunday from Kansas City,” Bailey said.
Bailey came to town to meet with Shilling and some representatives from an area college about a business plan that could have brought a light sport aircraft center and a factory to build the aircraft to the region.
“Kent got a call about 4 p.m. Monday asking him to go to Alabama, and he asked me if I wanted to go,” Bailey recalled. “I told him I’d stay here and work on the business plan. We had meetings the next day (Tuesday), and I would work on putting our proposal together. I told him to go ahead and do the flight, and I’d see him when he got back.”
Shilling left Springfield Monday en route to Alabama. Bailey stayed behind and worked as he had planned. Late Monday evening, around 10:30 p.m., Bailey said he tried to call Shilling on his cell phone. He got no answer, but assumed Shilling was fine. Bailey said he watched the Olympics on TV, and later went to bed.
When Bailey got up Tuesday morning, he realized Shilling had not yet returned home. Bailey walked the short distance from Shilling’s home to the airport terminal and started making telephone calls.
“I tried to call him again, but his cell phone went straight to voice mail. By the time noon rolled around, I realized we were going to be late for our meeting, and I thought he could have gotten to a phone to call me,” Bailey said. “Around noon, I called Anniston (Alabama) and they said he never showed up there. They said he might have gone to a neighboring airport because of bad weather, and suggested I call the St. Clair Airport.”
Bailey did call the St. Clair Airport in Pell City, Ala., and he found out that his friend had been there Monday night.
“They told me he had been there, but the plane was now gone. They said he left last night (Monday) around 9:21 p.m. Central time. I said, ‘Oh, no.’”
Bailey then went to a Web site to track the flight pattern of Shilling’s plane. He discovered that the plane was reported to have landed in Springfield, but he knew that was not accurate.
“I got the tail number of his plane and the site showed the last contact about 18 miles outside the airport, and that he had landed safely,” Bailey said. “He had closed his flight plan, which showed him on the ground.”
Bailey explained that pilots often close their flight plans on arrival, which signifies that the plane has arrived at its destination. He added that it’s not unusual for a pilot to cancel the flight plan early in cases where they know the area and are getting close to the airport, which appears to be what happened in Shilling’s case.
“He canceled the flight plan on final approach, and he never made it here,” Bailey said.
With no sign of Shilling and no contact, Bailey and another pilot, who is a member of the Civil Air Patrol, went up in a private plane to search for any signs of Shilling’s plane.
“The second pass we did, we found the plane,” Bailey said. “The Civil Air Patrol did not launch a search, but a pilot who is a member took me up to search, and it only took us about five minutes to find him.”