Fatal Plane Crash At Travis Air Force Base Cancels Airshow

A Stearman biplane crashed during the Thunder Over Solano Air Show at the Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California, Sunday afternoon, killing the 77-year-old pilot, the FAA said.

Local emergency responders were at the scene of the crash. The thousands of people attending the show were told to leave.

The official Facebook page of Travis Air Force Base posted a message around 2:40 p.m. which said the air show had been canceled due to the crash:

"The Travis Air Expo has been canceled due to the aircraft crash of an aerial performer. Guests of the base should comply with Security Forces instruction to exit the installation. Security Forces requests for individuals to provide photo and video footage of the crash to assist in the investigation. Call 424-2000 for more information about photo and video collection."

The pilot, well-known in the local flying community, was identified as 77-year-old Eddie Andreini of Half Moon Bay. NBC Bay Area has learned he was performing an "acrobatic aerial maneuver" around 2 p.m. when he crashed, according to Col. David Mott of Travis Air Force Base.

Andreini was a decorated and experienced pilot and was inducted into the International Council of Air Shows Hall of Fame just last year. According to Andreini's web site, he had been flying since he was 16 years old and had been an air show stunt pilot for 25 years.

"It’s a really tragic way to end the show," said Ashleigh Carter, a family friend of Andreini. "He was doing great up until that point, and I know he’s been doing it for years. It’s a big shock.”

Andreini was in the middle of what is called cutting the ribbon, something he had done many times before. But something terrible happened in Sunday's low-flying acrobatic maneuver.

“I saw the performer perform an inverted, and he was flying approximately 40-50 feet from the runway," witness Brian Stokes said. "And then, his plane kind of stair-stepped, then impacted the runway in an inverted formation, upside down.”

“Several minutes had passed before the flames happened and then started in the rear section forward," another family friend Matthew Carter said. "And that was that.”

Eyewitness pictures and video on Twitter and Instagram caught the smoky aftermath of the fatal plane crash, showing thick black smoke and fire engines rushing to the scene. It was an abrupt end to the popular air show, a two-day event that hasn't been held for three years.

Berkeley resident Urso Chappell tweeted out a picture from the parking lot.

"This is not what you want to see at an air show. A bi-plane crashed here at Travis Air Force Base." Chappell tweeted.

Chappell told NBC Bay Area that "he did not see the accident happen, just the horrible aftermath."

"I had already left the air show and was in the parking lot. I just saw fire trucks heading toward the tarmac," he said.

A KCRA 3 employee who was at the air show said the biplane flew into the ground while flying upside down, the station reported.

No spectators were injured, and the NTSB is now investigating the cause of the crash.

Some wondered how much of a role the gusty winds played.

“If we look at yesterday, winds were much greater, stronger," Mott said. "Gusts coming down the runway. What I can tell you is winds were approximately 10-15 knots [15-20 miles per hour].” 

Wind in the area has been known to pick up in the afternoon.

The Stearman biplane is a World War II-era aircraft built in 1944.

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