DAVENPORT — A pilot flying in formation with two other retired military jets failed to come out of a 45-degree bank during a Quad-City Air Show performance, crashing Saturday afternoon into a field just north of Interstate 80.
The pilot, part of the Hoppers Flight Jet Team, died in the crash about 1:25 p.m.
The impact sent a huge fireball into the sky just southwest of the Davenport Municipal Airport, where thousands of spectators were watching the annual air show.
Davenport Assistant Police Chief Don Schaeffer told reporters the plane went directly into the ground.
“He never had an opportunity to come out of it,” Schaeffer added.
No one on the ground was injured.
Schaeffer said the Davenport Police Department was the lead agency investigating the crash Saturday afternoon. Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, officials, who were stationed at the air show, were also at the crash scene in the Eastern Iowa Industrial Center off Northwest Boulevard. Davenport firefighters and Scott County Sheriff’s deputies were at the scene as well.
An FAA spokesman, Lynn Lunsford, said that because it was a fatal crash, the National Transportation Safety Board will lead the investigation. He did not know when officials from that agency would be on-site.
As the air show continued and planes roared overhead, investigators began setting up a grid system to organize the search for pieces of the wreckage.
Schaeffer said the plane crashed in an alfalfa field, but the wreckage was widely scattered. He estimated that parts of the plane were strewn over an area that measured about 75 by 220 yards. The crash occurred a few hundred yards from buildings in the industrial park, but they were not damaged.
The pilot, who was the only person in the plane, was not identified, but Schaeffer said “this portion” of the air show was not from the Quad-City area.
Schaeffer had no information about what may have caused the crash.
The plane that crashed was a 1984 single-engine fixed-wing Aero Vodochody L-39C. The plane was originally a military training jet, used mainly in Europe, Lunsford said. Over the years, a number of them have been purchased by private owners and used for weekend flying and for air shows, he said.
FAA records show that the plane, which had the tail number N139GS, is owned by the Warbird Education Foundation, based in Frisco, Texas. The plane was built in 1984 and has a turbo-jet engine. The foundation’s 2010 tax return said that Glenn Smith of Frisco is the organization’s president. David Mills of Moline is listed as a director. The return listed a 1984 Aero Vodochody L-39C with a fair market value of $550,000.
Mills also is a member of the Hoppers Flight Jet Team and was at the air show Saturday.
An L-39C crashed in May near Boulder City, Nev., killing two people, according to a report in the Las Vegas Sun newspaper. And a website for enthusiasts of the plane listed 20 crashes of the aircraft since 1998. The website said more than 2,800 of the aircraft were built and 300-plus were flying in private ownership. The plane was developed in Czechoslovakia and was used by the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries, according to the site.
At the time of the police briefing Saturday afternoon, Schaeffer said there were a number of canisters scattered about the field with the valves broken off, raising the possibility of toxic fumes in the area. He said, however, that the fire department was on hand and authorities were ensuring the safety of the scene before officers began processing it.
Schaeffer said authorities would be at the field at the Eastern Iowa Industrial Center for much of the afternoon and that police would guard the scene throughout the night. Investigators are expected to return to the scene this morning. http://globegazette.com/news/iowa/pi...a4bcf887a.html