VONORE — The pilot of a de Havilland DHC-1 that crashed Sunday in Cherokee National Forest has been identified as a veteran airshow performer, Jim "Fang" Maroney, 59, of Brookfield, Fla.

Maroney, whose Super Chipmunk Airshows was scheduled to perform this weekend in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., was found dead Monday morning after searchers located the aircraft, which had been reported missing Sunday night. The de Havilland DHC-1 is also known as the Chipmunk.

According to his website, in 1981 Maroney graduated No. 1 out of 1,500 pilots from Naval Flight Training at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. In 1983, he was rated No. 1 in his class at the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School, “Top Gun,” at Naval Air Station Miramar. 

He flew F/A-18 Hornets for the Marine Corps until 1985, when he transferred to the North Dakota Air National Guard, according to his press kit. While in the Guard, Maroney flew the F-4 Phantom and F-16 Fighting Falcon, becoming squadron and group commander during his time.  In 2002, he retired from the military.

Distress signal Sunday night

The plane was reported missing Sunday night after distress signals were picked up by Civil Air Patrol, Tennessee Highway Patrol and Lifestar helicopters.

The aircraft — a single-engine World War II-era de Havilland DHC-1 — was reported missing Sunday evening after it didn’t arrive at its destination. The flight originated in French Lick, Ind., was en route to Franklin County Airport in Canon, Ga.

Officials with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office told media the wreckage was found in the Cherokee National Forest in Goat Creek on the north side of a mountain and the south side of a ridge, but crews were able to access the area by air. The pilot was the only person on board the antique aircraft.

If the weather holds, personnel will attempt to extricate the Maroney's body.

The aircraft went off radar at around 1:30 p.m. Sunday in the Blount County area and the Blount County Sheriff’s Office received a report later that night that a plane out of French Lick was missing in the area. Crews began searching for the downed DHC-1 aircraft at 9:30 p.m, and the last Blount County searcher left at 5 a.m. The distress signal was located in the Indian Boundary area of Cherokee National Forest and Blount County turned the search over to Monroe County, according to Blount Public Information Officer Marian O’Briant.

A command center was set up at Topoca.

Also involved in the search were the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, National Park Service, Blount County Fire Department, Blount County Rescue Squad, Rural/Metro Ambulance the Civil Air Patrol, and the Blount Special Operations Response Team began searching for the aircraft at around 9:30 p.m.

A Tennessee Highway Patrol helicopter pinpointed the plane’s emergency locator transmitter in Monroe County and THP located the wreackage at sunrise today.

An investigation into the crash continues.

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