FAIRFIELD (CBS SF) — Stunt pilot Eddie Andreini planned to make three passes in his 1944 Super Stearman biplane during a “ribbon-cut maneuver” at the Thunder Over Solano Air Show at Travis Air Force Base earlier this month.
Andreini’s first two passes flying upright were not intended to cut the ribbon suspended 20 feet off the ground between two poles across the runway, the National Transportation Safety Board said.
The third and final pass was to be an attempt to cut the ribbon with the plane’s vertical stabilizer while flying upside down, but the plane was too high and it didn’t cut the ribbon, the NTSB said.
Andreini’s unscheduled second attempt to cut the ribbon cost him his life.
The 77-year-old Half Moon Bay resident with 30 year’s experience as a stunt pilot aligned his Boeing E75 Stearman biplane with the runway, rolled the plane upside down again and crashed on the runway before reaching the ribbon, the NTSB said in its preliminary report of the fatal May 4 crash.
The plane’s right wing hit the ground first followed by the tail, left wing and propeller.
The inverted plane slid between the ground crew that was holding the poles for the ribbon in place and slid 740 feet, the NTSB said.
Still and moving images showed the subsequent fire became visible just before the plane came to a stop hundreds of feet from the ground crew, the NTSB said.
Fire consumed most of the right side of the plane in 50 seconds, and Air Force rescue and firefighting personnel arrived at the burning plane three to four minutes after the accident and extinguished the fire, the NTSB said.
The plane’s 47-gallon fuel tank was mounted in the center section of the upper wing just in front of the cockpit. The right wing and cockpit furnishings were almost completely consumed by fire, but the cockpit itself was not deformed, the NTSB said.
Winds at the time of the crash were 15 knots with gusts up to 21 knots, the NTSB said.
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