FAIRFIELD, Calif. (AP) — A 77-year-old pilot was killed when his vintage biplane crashed on a runway Sunday while he was performing an upside down stunt at a Northern California air show.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the plane caught fire and a plume of black smoke poured from the craft in an open field away from spectators at 2:05 p.m. at Travis Air Force Base in Solano County. An estimated 100,000 spectators witnessed the fatal crash. No one else was injured.
An Air Force statement identified Edward Andreini of Half Moon Bay as the pilot who died; Federal Aviation Administration records show him to be the registered owner of the 1944 Stearman biplane. The World War II-era aircraft was commonly used to train pilots.
Col. David Mott, 60th Operations Group commander at the base said the plane was trying to perform a maneuver known as "cutting a ribbon" where it inverts and flies close to the ground so that a knife attached to the plane can slice a ribbon just off the ground.
Angie Giles, a spectator from Antioch, said the plane "flipped over to do a trick and hit the ground and dragged over the ground."
The plane crash cut short the Thunder Over Solano air show as people were evacuated. Sgt. Rachel Martinez, a spokeswoman for the base, said organizers estimated that 100,000 people attended the air show Sunday.
The pilot had flown planes since he was 16 years old and had performed stuns in shows for 25 years. Andreini's website advertising his air show says "your audience will be thrilled at the sight of this huge biplane performing double outside loops, square loops, torque rolls, double snap rolls, and ... a heart-stopping, end-over-end tumble maneuver."
The National Transportation Safety Board will head up an investigation. Lynn Lunsford of the FAA said the FAA was already on site and will be a member of the team.