FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. --
A Cold War-era trainer plane was in the midst of a formation at a Flagler County air show Saturday afternoon when it spiraled to the ground and burst into flames in front of more than 1,000 horrified spectators, county officials said.
The pilot has been identified as William Walker of Cookeville, Tennessee. He was killed instantly.
His plane, a Yak-52, was part of the Red Thunder Air Show.
Footage of the crash site showed charred remains, including the plane’s single-engine. Florida Highway Patrol investigators were walking around the wreckage hours after the crash. FHP is part of the investigation because the crash happened on Department of Transportation property, Laundrie said.
The plane plummeted to the ground during the 2nd annual Flagler Fly In Air Show in Palm Coast. No one on the ground was hurt.
“Everybody was just in shock. Silence. They were quiet. Very unfortunate,” said Jay Gardner, an eyewitness.
The three other planes in the formation were not affected by the crash.
“The pilot was supposed to pull up out of the loop,” Laundrie said. “Instead, he headed to the ground and crashed and was killed instantly.”
The Yak-52 was designed as an aerobatic plane to train both civilian and military pilots in Russia. It was first built in 1976. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, many have been exported to the west. Of the approximately 1,800 produced to date, many fly in the United States and other western countries.
The air show continued Sunday.
“We’re going to spending today celebrating [Walker’s] life and we’re going to be doing what he loved to do,” said Bill Mills, the air show promoter.
Friends said Walker had been flying for 30 years.
The Federal Aviation Administration is trying to determine if Walker’s plane had a mechanical malfunction.
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