An ex-military and commercial pilot with more than 20,000 hours in the air has died after crashing a custom-built biplane near the Brantford, Ont., airport Wednesday morning. 

Ray Cameron, a pilot and mechanic at the airport, said the plane "wagged" its tail before crashing into the ground before it stopped next to a machine shop where the wood and fabric covered wings burned, leaving only a steel frame visible. 

Neither the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) nor the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) could confirm if the fire began before the plane crashed or as a result of hitting the ground. Neither would release the identity of the only fatality in the crash, the pilot, with the OPP adding they still need a positive identification on the deceased. 

Cameron said the pilot was a retired military flight instructor in his late-sixties who trained pilots on the Tutor fighter jet, the same planes used by the Snowbirds.

A TSB news release Wednesday afternoon identified the plane as an amateur built Skybolt biplane. Transportation Safety Board investigator Ewan Tasker said the plane was a kit-built "high-performance acrobatic aircraft."

Tasker said he had heard witness reports that the plane had "wagged" its tail flap before the crash, but that he'd also heard the opposite as well. What is certain is the first impact into pavement beside the airport was "pretty hard."

"There's quite a crater," Tasker said. 

While Ontario Provincial Police did not release a name, the TSB did confirm the pilot had "30 to 40" years of experience. 

Neither the OPP or TSB offered any speculation on the cause of the crash. 

skybolt

This is the kind of biplane that crashed Wednesday in Brantford, Ont. (Steelhead 2010/Flickr.com)

Cameron, who said he had flown in the plane, said it was in good order, and was roughly five years old.

"It was really responsive. It was a good-flying plane," said Cameron, describing the kit-built plane with a nine-cylinder Russian radial engine. 

Cameron said the pilot leaves behind a wife and son.

Tasker said the Skybolt is a popular aircraft with acrobatic enthusiasts. 

"There's such a variety of amateur-built, kit-built aircraft," Tasker said. "Generally overall, they have a good safety record."

Police were called to the crash site near York Road just east of the airport around 11:19 a.m., OPP Const. Larry Plummer told CBC Hamilton.

"We don't yet know the cause," he said, but added that it was "not a crash landing." There was only one person in the plane.

The plane wound up under several trees and near a mid-sized building. Police cordoned off the area around the downed plane and covered the wreckage with an orange tarp.

Police have closed York Road for the investigation.

This is the second serious plane crash at the Brantford airport in a week. An experimental aircraft crashed near the airport last Friday, sending two men to hospital with serious injuries.