The pilot of a vintage biplane who died at a Northern California air show was making his second attempt at an upside-down stunt 20 feet off the ground when he crashed, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a report released Monday.
Eddie Andreini, 77, died May 4 in the crash at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield during the Thunder Over Solano air show before a crowd of about 85,000 people. In the stunt, he had had a knife attached to his plane and was trying to cut a ribbon suspended between two poles held by a ground crew.
Read: Vintage WWII Plane Crashes at Airshow
The NTSB says the plane was too high during the first attempt to cut the ribbon. It crashed before reaching the ribbon during the second attempt, sliding between members of the ground crew and coming to a stop a few hundred feet beyond them.
The plane’s right wing first hit the runway, the report says, followed by the tail, left wing and the propeller.
Investigators report that they reviewed photos and video, showing that the plane caught fire just before it came to a stop. Burn marks on the runway showed that the fuel spilled and burned in a pool, and within 50 seconds the flames engulfed most of the plane’s right side.
Witnesses said it felt like emergency crews took a long time to reach the scene.
The report says a base fire crew reached the plane within about three or four minutes and put out the flames.
Flames burned the fuselage, and the report says that the cockpit furnishings were almost completely consumed by fire. The left wing and rudder were smashed in the crash, but the report says the cockpit was not deformed.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense