KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A stunt pilot was killed in fiery crash during a Kansas City air show on Saturday after his plane appeared unable to get out of a downward spiral and plummeted nose-first into the ground, witnesses and authorities said.
Missouri Department of Aviation spokesman Joe McBride said the pilot couldn't pull out of a maneuver and the biplane crashed at a downtown airfield. No spectators were injured, and 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. A website promoting a pilot by the same name who was scheduled to perform at the show said he had been flying aerobatics for 15 years, worked for a major airline and had more than 23,000 hours of flight time.
Witnesses told the Kansas City Star that the red biplane 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 Kansas 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 was 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 but no other information about him.
"Our hearts go out to Bryan's family and loved ones," he said.
The website promoting a Bryan Jensen and his red biplane said he grew up on a farm in rural Iowa, took his first flying lesson at age 13 and graduated from the University of North Dakota's aviation college. The site said he had worked for several commuter and major airlines.
Noyallis said aerobic flying can be extremely dangerous, but said the public was never in danger Saturday.
Air show officials said they consulted with other pilots and agreed the show would continue Sunday.