Air Force

Pilot killed in air show crash at California Air Force base

No spectators hurt, pilot's condition unknown


A pilot was killed when his plane crashed during an air show at a California Air Force base Sunday.

Eddie Andreini, 77, an air show veteran, was killed in the crash, Col. David Mott of Travis Air Force Base said at a Sunday afternoon press conference.

"No one wants to see an event like this," Mott said. "Our hearts and condolences go out to the Andreini family."

Andreini was attempting a "cutting the ribbon" maneuver when the biplane crashed upside-down on the tarmac shortly after 2 p.m., Mott said. The trick involves the plane inverting and flying close to the ground so that a propeller attached to the plane can slice a ribbon just off the ground.

Angie Giles, a spectator from Antioch, Calif. said the plane "flipped over to do a trick and hit the ground and dragged over the ground."

Roger Bockrath, a retired photojournalist who was photographing the afternoon show, chronicled the routine and witnessed the crash. He said Andreini, flying into a sometimes gusty wind, passed on two attempts before trying a third time, hitting the tarmac and sliding to a stop in an open field.

"He got down too low and hit the tarmac. He skidded about 500 feet and just sat there. The plane was essentially intact, just wrong side down," Bockrath told The Sacramento Bee.

Bockrath said nearly 2 1/2 minutes went by before someone appeared with a fire extinguisher. By then, the aircraft was fully enflamed and collapsing from the heat. He said it took a total of five minutes before fire crews arrived.

"He should be in the hospital with second-degree burns and smoke inhalation. Instead, he's at the coroner's office," Bockrath said. "It's shocking to me how long it took. I'm still rattled by it."

The crash at the Solano County, Calif. base did not occur near spectators, and no one else was hurt.

Lynn Lunsford of the Federal Aviation Administration said Sunday that the plane was a Stearman biplane. The plane was part of the Thunder Over Solano airshow at Travis Air Force Base in Solano County.

The airshow was canceled shortly afterwards.

Mott said Andreini had been flying since he was 16 years old, and had performed in air shows for 25 years. He would not speculate on the cause of the crash, and said winds were approximately 10 to 15 knots.

The National Transportation Safety Board will head up an investigation and Lunsford says the FAA is already on site and will be a member of the team.

The 1945 plane was registered to the Eddie Andreini Air Shows, Inc. based in Half Moon Bay, Calif. 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."

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.