The man killed in a plane crash in Nashville has been identified as Michael Callan.

Callan, 45 years old, was the only person on the plane at the time of the crash.

"Michael loved to fly planes, he was an aspiring pilot and his passion was to fly," Callan's sister, Jodie Quenneville, told CBC News.

A single-engine Cessna 172 crashed early Tuesday morning off the side of a runway at Nashville International Airport, according to the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority.

Callan had been flying planes for years, according to Quenneville.

The plane caught on fire after it crashed, officials said.

Flight plan didn't include Nashville trip

The Windsor Flying Club said in a statement that the plane was “rented and flown by a club member.”

Club president David Gillies said the person who rented the plane filed a flight plan to take the plane from the club to Pelee Island. He was to return the plane by noon Tuesday.

Gillies said he was not aware of any flight plan that included a trip to Nashville.

“To fly from there to Nashville would require not just the flight plan but some very complicated arrangements with the American authorities to cross the border. I’m assuming he may have done that. He may not have,” Gillies said. "He would have had to open a new flight plan before leaving Pelee Island.”

Gillies said the pilot was a flying club member in good standing who “never had an incident with our planes.” Gillies said he was qualified to fly at night.

“He has done this before, where he’s left at 8 p.m. and come back at noon the next day,” Gillies said.

Jay Neylon, the air safety investigator from the National Transportation Safety Board in the U.S., said he is unsure if the plane landed on Pelee Island. He said he has “no idea” about the plane’s flight path beyond Pelee Island.

According to the FAA, the pilot would have had to register through the online Electronic Advance Passenger Information System, giving American authorities notice he planned on flying into the United States.

Prior to the Sept. 11 attacks, the U.S. Customs Service, now part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), received advance passenger information from air carriers on a voluntary basis.

As a result of 9/11 Commission recommendations, Congress mandated that the Department of Homeland Security establish a requirement to receive advance information on international passengers travelling by air and sea prior to their departure.

It's not known if Callan registered using the system.

However, even though he would have been required to register, Neylon said he would not be required to file a flight plan if he was flying visually rather than by using instruments.

Gillies estimated Nashville is 650 kilometres away. He said it’s about a four-hour flight and the plane rented could have made the trip on a tank of fuel.

Investigator examined crash site

One local newspaper said the crash happened at about 3 a.m. but went unnoticed until another plane spotted the wreckage some six hours later. 

Neylon said staff at the airport conducted a “runway sweep at 2 a.m.” Tuesday morning. At 8:45 a.m. debris was discovered.

"The aircraft was discovered by a pilot in an aircraft that was taxing along a taxiway there at Nashville International Airport," said Peter Knudson of the National Transportation Safety Board.

Knudson said as soon as the investigator arrived on the scene late yesterday afternoon, he started examining debris spread across the runway.

"He's really going to be focusing on documenting the accident and the wreckage scene. We'll try to determine if there's any perhaps airport video footage of the accident, and then we'll be looking at the radar data and the air traffic control tapes," Knudson said.

There was dense fog in that part of Tennessee on Tuesday morning but it is not known if that contributed to the crash.