NTSB investigates fatal air show crash at Travis Air Force Base

FAA, NTSB officials are investigating to determine the cause of a biplane crash that killed a pilot at an air show on Sunday.
May 5, 2014 7:39:45 PM PDT
Both the FAA and and the National Transportation Safety Board are on scene of a deadly air show crash at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield to determine what went wrong. The NTSB estimates the investigation could take up to nine months.

The pilot had thrilled audiences for decades with his acrobatic stunts and was very experienced.

The pilot of the biplane crash has been identified as Eddie Andreini, a well-known stunt pilot and owner of Eddie Andreini Air Shows out of Half Moon Bay.

Officials estimate as many as 100,000 people were in attendance at the air show. Many witnesses captured video of the accident with their cellphone.

One day after stunt pilot was killed, federal investigators examined the charred wreckage as it lay on a tarmac at Travis Air Force Base.

"The focus of today is the factual documentation of the onsite. We're looking at ground scars, we're looking at the wreckage. So, we're focusing on the site, factual information only," NTSB investigator Howard Plagenn said.

A veteran stunt pilot, Andreini was near the end of his performance, flying upside down when his plane crashed to the ground.

"I thought he was going to make it, but before I knew it he just skid on the grund, on the canopy. And I went 'whoa, what just happened?'" witness Bryce Chen said.

"He was performing a maneuver where he was inverted, cutting a ribbon. I can't give you details of how high that ribbon is or was, but I will tell you it was fairly close to the ground," said 60th Operations Group Commander Col. David Mott.

Investigators say they now have about 100 pictures and videos of the incident that they will examine as part of their larger investigation.

"I was just inside the distinguished visitor's tent," Fairfield Mayor Harry Price said.

Price was at the air show, just a 150 yards from the flight line, when Andreini's Stearman biplane hit the ground.

"The crowd makes an audible gasp and of course we look immediately at the flight line and then I can see the smoke and the plane and the plane was inverted," Price said.

Andreini's website tells of his long and storied career that began when he learned to fly at age 16. He had been performing stunts for the last 25 years in a variety of planes housed at his home base in Half Moon Bay. Andreini had performed in nearly 1,000 air shows. In 2004 the International Council of Air Shows gave him its Sword of Excellence Award, the highest honor an air show pilot can receive. And in 2013, Andreini was inducted into the ICAS Hall of Fame.

Friends and Half Moon Bay residents are remembering the beloved pilot. Some said he was an icon and the kind of guy you have a lot of respect for.

"Even people who didn't know him. Last night, I went to the grocery store and people were talking about him," Half Moon Bay resident Sudi Taleghani said.

A picture of Andreini hangs inside the airport's 3-Zero Caf?. It's on the wall along with all the legends.

"He liked to split his meal with whoever was with him and he liked BLTs," waitress Sharon Pacheco said.

And in his Stearman biplane, Andreini was the best, safest pilot most of them have ever seen.

"He could do more in that Stearman than any pilot alive," friend Brent Gammon said.

Andrieni lived in Half Moon Bay all his life. He owned a construction company and was also a community leader.

"I am going to miss his smile. And I am going to miss hearing, 'hey sharon, how are you?' Greatly," Pacheco said.

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