Local student pilot Gene Perkins says one of the first things he learned in training was how to go through a pre-flight checklist.
"Check and make sure all the rivets are in, making sure the wings are okay, there's nothing inside the engine, check the oil," said Perkins.
That why he says he was shocked to hear investigator reports that David Richardson and his instructor weren't wearing their seat belts when the plane went into a nose dive, the canopy came open, and Richardson fell more than 2,000 feet from his plane and died.
"I don't know if that plane was equipped with seat belts, it should've been and they should've had them on , my instructor would never let me go up with out a seat belt," Perkins said.
According to the FAA, the plane Richardson and his instructor were flying was a Zodiac 601, which pilot Stephen Smith describes as an experimental plane.
"A zodiac is a type of plane that can be built from a kit which implies the parts were sent to the new owner and he assembled the kit," Smith said.
Smith knew the pilot Richardson bought the plane from, and says he was well qualified to build the aircraft.
"Clarence was a respected engineer, I worked with him at TVA, he was a Airforce retiree, he also had great knowledge of hydraulics," said Smith.
Despite how well it was built, the Zodiac 601 has a history of in-flight failures and was reviewed by the FAA in 2009.
They issued a notice that the planes wouldn't be certified airworthy until certain problems were fixed.
The registry for the very zodiac Richardson was flying doesn't show that certification.
Smith says that's all the more reason he would want to take every safety precaution before flying it.
"Canopy's do come off in flight, window, things can break and fall off so you want to have your seat belt on. I cant imagine anyone intentionally leaving the belt off," said Smith.