Thousands of people were watching from a distance but no one was injured when a T-28 fixed-wing plane in a civilian aerobatics group wobbled and crashed on Saturday, authorities said. Many in the crowd hugged each other and cried after seeing the aircraft appear to disintegrate in a fireball.
The ill-fated aircraft was part of a T-28 acrobatic team that tours the nation performing in air shows such as the Thunder Over the Blue Ridge air show organised over the weekend at an airport near Martinsburg, according to General James Hoyer, West Virginia Air National Guard adjutant.
The rest of the air show, including yesterday’s planned performances, were cancelled.
Hoyer declined to immediately identify the pilot. Meanwhile, air show officials posted a notice on their website encouraging those who witnessed the crash to seek support if they felt viewing it had been traumatic.
The crash occurred a day after a stunt pilot crashed at a Nevada air race on Friday, killing at least nine and injuring dozens more.
“We were fortunate that the safety measures put in place by the Federal Aviation Administration ensured the safety of those on the ground,” Hoyer said in a statement. “Right now our thoughts and prayers are with the family members of the deceased.”
Local reports suggested the aircraft lost control during a six-plane stunt formation and then crashed on a runway near hangers at the airfield, causing thousands at the show to cry, hug and pray afterward.
The plane was part of the T-28 Warbird Aerobatic Formation Demonstration Team, and was performing as part of a show put on by the 167th Airlift Wing of the West Virginia Air National Guard.
The T-28 aerobatic team is known as the Trojan Horsemen and its website says Jack “Flash” Mangan, the registered owner of the plane, is part of the alternate wing. His biography on the site says he is a former Air Force fighter pilot who won three Meritorious Service Medals and Tactical Air Command’s Instructor Pilot of the Year.