Air show crash pilot ‘saved lives by steering clear of spectators’

The aircraft pilot killed in a crash at a US air show has been hailed for preventing more deaths.

The plane carrying a wing walker crashed and exploded into flames at the Vectren Air Show at Dayton International Airport in Ohio, killing the pilot and stunt walker instantly, authorities said, but no spectators were hurt.

A video posted on WHIO-TV shows the 450 HP Stearman biplane turn upside down as the stuntwoman sits on top of the wing. The plane then tilts and crashes to the ground, exploding into flames as spectators scream.

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The pilot was named in reports as Charlie Schwenker.

Ian Hoyt, 20, an aviation photographer and licensed pilot, was at the show with his girlfriend. He said he was taking photos as the plane passed by and had just raised his camera to take another shot.

“Then I realised they were too low and too slow. And before I knew it, they hit the ground,” he said.

Mr Hoyt could not tell exactly what happened, but said it appeared the aircraft did not have enough air speed and stalled. He credited the pilot for steering clear of spectators and potentially saving lives. “Had he drifted more, I don’t know what would have happened,” Mr Hoyt said.

On the video, the announcer narrates as the plane glides through the sky and rolls over while stuntwoman Jane Wicker perches on a wing.

Federal records show that the plane was registered to Ms Wicker, who lived in Loudon, Virginia. A post on her Facebook page announced the deaths of her and Mr Schwenker and asked for prayers for their families.

Airport and police officials confirmed that a pilot and stunt walker had died but declined to give their names. The air show also said it would not immediately release their identities.

The show was cancelled for the rest of the day, but was due to resume yesterday. The National Transportation Safety Board said it was investigating the crash.

Another spectator, Shawn Warwick of New Knoxville, told the Dayton Daily News he was watching the flight through binoculars.

“I noticed it was upside-down really close to the ground. She was sitting on the bottom of the plane. I saw it just go right into the ground and explode.”

Than Tran, of Fairfield, said he could see a look of concern on the wing walker’s face just before the plane went down. “She looked very scared. Then the airplane crashed on the ground. After that, it was terrible ... very terrible.”

Ms Wicker’s website says she responded to a classified ad from the Flying Circus Airshow in Bealeton, Virginia, in 1990, for a wing-walking position, thinking it would be fun.