by: WHIO.com Updated:
A Thunderbirds Air Force jet went off a runway, slipped and flipped Friday during preparations for the Dayton Air Show in Ohio, injuring the pilot and causing a performance to be cancelled.
Lt. Col. Jason Heard, commander of the Thunderbirds, said a safety board will determine the cause of the “mishap” that occurred upon landing around 12:30 p.m. Friday at Dayton International Airport.
The pilot, Capt. Erik Gonsalves, suffered some lacerations and injuries to his leg and the other team member, Technical Sgt. Kenneth Cordova, had no visible injuries, according to Heard. Both were in good condition Friday after being treated at a hospital.
Heard said the crew of the F-16D Fighting Falcon was doing a routine advance flight at the Vectren Dayton Air Show site that is done to familiarize staff with it and the team’s mission so they can fully explain it to the public. The jet wasn’t scheduled to perform in the two-day show.
Ricardo von Puttkammer, a chief correspondent for Aviation Photojournal in New York City, told the Dayton Daily News that he saw a two-set Thunderbird land and taxi toward a staging area when a strong gust of wind apparently flipped the F-16 on its top.
Another eye witness told WHIO that the Thunderbird slipped while coming down for landing. Law enforcement officials confirmed the plane was upside-down. Emergency dispatchers said it was in the grass.
At the time of the crash there was heavy rain in the area. Rainfall rates in the vicinity exceeded two inches per hour, according to WHIO meteorologist Brett Collar. Heard said Gonsalves is an experienced pilot.
“They were brave throughout, and they assisted in their own recovery,” Heard said of the two team members.
Extracting the two men from the plane took about two hours, Heard said.
Organizers of the air show say it will go on as planned Saturday and Sunday, but the Thunderbirds have decided not to fly in Saturday’s show.
Heard said they had to reassess the readiness of the entire team in making the decision not to fly Saturday.
“Crowd safety and the safety of our teammates is always our priority,” he said.
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