KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A stunt pilot was killed in fiery crash during an air show on Saturday after his plane appeared unable to pull out of a downward spiral and nosedived into an airfield, witnesses and authorities said.
Missouri Department of Aviation spokesman Joe McBride said the pilot couldn't pull out of a maneuver and crashed the biplane into the grass at a downtown airfield. No spectators were injured.
McBride said it was the first fatal crash at the annual Kansas City Aviation Expo Air Show. Event officials identified the pilot as Bryan Jensen, though no other information was released.
Witnesses told the Kansas City Star that the red Horzon Hobbit plane was performing loops, then couldn't pull up from a downward spiral. They said the crowd fell silent when the plane hit the ground and burst into flames.
"It was right in front of the crowd," said City Council member Jan Marcason, who was watching the aerial acrobatics when the plane crashed around 1:45 p.m.
Others said it appeared that the pilot was going to gain control of the plane and that the maneuver initially looked scripted.
"It was looking cool at first, like he knew what he was doing," Jason Cook, of Blue Springs, told the newspaper.
Spectators were asked to leave Wheeler Downtown Airport after the crash, though the show is expected to resume Sunday. The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.
In a news conference hours after the fatal accident, air show director Ed Noyallis released the pilot's name and offered his condolences.
"Our hearts go out to Bryan's family and loved ones," he said. Noyallis said aerobic flying can be extremely dangerous, but noted there was never any danger to the public.
Air show officials said they consulted with other pilots and agreed the show would continue Sunday.