MARTINSBURG, W.Va. – The second deadly air show crash in 24 hours has left one pilot dead in West Virginia and prompted the National Transportation Safety Board to dispatch an investigator to the site where an aerobatic demonstration plane plunged into a runway and exploded as spectators looked on.
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 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 airshow organized over the weekend at an airport near Martinsburg, according to Gen. James Hoyer, West Virginia Air National Guard adjutant.
The rest of the air show, including Sunday’s planned performances, were canceled.
Hoyer declined to immediately identify the pilot, saying next-of-kin were being notified. 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 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.”
The fixed-wing, single-engine T-28 plane is registered to John Mangan of Concord, N.C., and was built in 1958, according to an FAA registry. Calls to an FAA office for West Virginia by The Associated Press were not immediately returned Sunday.
The Journal of Martinsburg (http://bit.ly/nJ268P ) reports 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 paper said the NTSB investigator was expected to arrive later in the day Sunday as part of the investigation and a news conference was expected later Sunday afternoon.
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 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.
A message left at Mangan’s North Carolina home was not immediately returned Saturday.
According to The Boeing Co.’s website, the North American T-28 Trojan was a basic trainer that was used by the U.S Navy, including for carrier operation. Its first flight was in 1949 and it was designed to transition pilots to jet aircraft.