The pilot of the plane that went down in Collegedale early Thursday morning talks with NewsChannel 9 about the seconds leading up to and after the crash.
Artur Karst said he won't let the crash keep him from flying again, but he will pay closer attention to his instruments the next time he flies in the dark of night.
"One second can make the difference between life and death," Karst said Friday.
As we talked with Karst it was obvious he had endured a hard landing - his face is bruised and covered with stitches on deep cuts and he's missing a couple of front teeth.
But the plane he flew, a Piper Cherokee single engine, is a total loss. It came to rest in pieces just to the north of the runway at Collegdale Municipal Airport. The crash happened just after 6:00 a.m.
"When I left the runway it was just black, no visual checkpoints at all, nothing I could see at all," Karst said.
25-year-old Karst, German-born and now training to be a mission pilot with Gospel Ministries International, departed for a scheduled trip to the Canadian border. He was going to build up some hours for his instrument flying and commercial licenses. All seemed normal as the plane lifted off the runway.
"Just for one moment I was not paying attention to my attitude indicator, that shows me how the plane is in position to the horizon," Karst said. "Then I saw the plane was going like this, sideways, and I corrected and I said oh."
"I felt I hit something and it was just a matter of seconds and I was down on the ground," Karst explained.
The aircraft clipped some trees on a ridge just north of the runway and landed in pieces in some woods.
Karst was going to first stop at the Jasper airport and pick up his friend, colleague and co-pilot Darren Lea. Both were going to work on their flying hours to Canada and back. They plan to fly together on missions in Africa.
While Lea was waiting on Karst in Marion County, the ill-fated pilot said it took him a moment or two to realize what happened while he was still in the pilot's seat.
"Then I heard something like a voice tell me to get out of the plane, didn't know why but I became nervous," Karst said.
Bleeding and battered, Karst pounded his way out of the plane and seconds later it burst into flames. He then reached into his pants pocket and got his cellphone to called Lea.
"I could hear in his voice it was not a joke, I could hear it was serious and next thing he's telling me is the plane is burning," Lea said.
Karst then called 911 for help and fire and emergency services arrived a few minutes later. Karst was taken to Erlanger Medical Center to be treated for his injuries.
Karst said this won't stop him from getting in a plane and flying again.
"God still needs me for something, for something bigger, he has brought me here for a reason so I'm preparing for mission work as a mission pilot," Karst said.
The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating and has not released a final cause of the crash. But as Karst said he took his eyes off his instruments while taking off in the dark - something he said he won't do again.
The crashed plane is registered to Gospel Ministries International of McDonald, Tennessee. A spokeswoman for GMI said the plane had just passed it's 100 hour inspection and was certified to be safe and airworthy.