A pilot died when his propeller-driven stunt plane crashed while he was practising tricks for a weekend air show in New York's Hudson Valley, state police said Friday.
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Trooper Steven Nevel said the accident happened around 2 p.m. Friday at Stewart International Airport in the Orange County town of New Windsor, where the New York Air Show is scheduled to take place this weekend.
The pilot was the only person in the plane. His name wasn't immediately released.
The Federal Aviation Administration said the plane was a Giles G202 experimental aircraft owned by stunt pilot Andrew Wright of Austin, Texas. Wright took a local reporter for a preview flight earlier and was scheduled to perform at the show.
Benjamin Granucci, a photographer and editor for the website nycaviation.com, photographed the wreck as it happened.
He said the pilot had flown several passes, performing a variety of tricks, when he went into a dive followed by a steep, corkscrewing climb.
"Partway through the corkscrew he slowed down," Granucci said. But he said that he didn't think anything was wrong until he saw the plane flying into an area off-limits to performers because of its proximity to spectators.
"After he was clear of that area, he sort of stopped and just started spinning to the ground," Granucci said.
Granucci said he heard a thud but didn't see the plane hit the ground because his view was obscured by trees and a small hill.
He said that when he reviewed his photos, they appeared to show the tail section of the plane twisting off in mid-flight.
State police confirmed the aircraft had an apparent structural failure.
On his website, Wright says he has been flying competition and air show acrobatics in the lightweight carbon fiber G202 since 2001.
In his performances, Wright climbs, rolls, loops and spirals in the small white plane with color-changing striped wings, leaving a trail of smoke. In a trademark maneuver, he flies straight up until the engine stalls and the plane falls tail-first toward the ground, with the engine roaring back to life moments before the aircraft would hit the ground.
A woman at the air show box office said the show will go on as scheduled.
The National Transportation Safety Board and New York State Police are investigating.