Georgios Kefalas  /  AP
Firemen in Basel, Switzerland, work to extinguish the fire in a residential building after a small plane ripped through the roof on Monday.
updated 7/23/2007 1:02:29 PM ET 2007-07-23T17:02:29

A veteran pilot trying to break a speed record was killed Monday when his small, experimental plane crashed into an apartment building and playground. Six people on the ground were slightly injured, authorities said.

The crash occurred at 11:25 a.m., shortly after the single-engine plane took off from EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg, across the border in France, authorities said.

It plowed through the attic of an apartment building in northwestern Basel before crashing in flames on the playground.

The pilot was identified as Hans Georg Schmid, a former Swissair pilot who logged more than 16,000 hours of flight experience during three decades at the former national carrier. His body was found in the park, said Klaus Mannhart, spokesman for Basel cantonal police.

Schmid was trying to break a world record for a solo single-engine flight over 4,970 miles with a C1-D class of plane, aiming to reach Oshkosh, Wis., in 30 hours. The plane was fueled by 450 gallons of kerosene, airport spokeswoman Sabrina Walter said.

Children escaped injury
"There was a loud bang," said Silvia Kalman, an adult supervisor taking care of 19 children who were at the playground when the plane crashed. A jungle gym burst into flames, but none of the children were injured, she said.

Hours later, the playground was still littered with the plane's wreckage.

Two people who were inside the building struck by the plane and four rescue service officers suffered slight injuries, police commander Werner Dietz said. Three people in total were treated at a hospital and released.

Schmid designed the plane, called the "Express 2000 ER," and was planning later this year to use it to fly around the world twice later this year, according to Lycoming Engines, the Williamsport, Pa.-based company that built the engine.

He has set world records circumnavigating the globe in both eastbound and westbound directions using a homemade plane he designed. His new attempts would have been northbound and southbound, crossing the North Pole and Antarctica on each trip, Lycoming says on its Web site.

Pilot had set 160 records
The company said Schmid held more than 160 aviation world records in all. The new plane had a successful initial flight last month, according to the Experimental Aviation Association of Switzerland.

Vincent Devauchelle, deputy director of the airport, said the Swiss Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau was looking into the accident.

Schmid's flight to Wisconsin was timed to coincide with the Experimental Aircraft Association's AirVenture, which is promoted as the world's largest gathering of recreational aviators. Some 750,000 spectators and 10,000 planes from around the world were expected at the event, which runs through Sunday.

Schmid's plane, which was in the 3,850- to 6,600-pound weight class, included special fuel tanks and a unique design for handling strenuous loads.

Airport officials said they did not know what record Schmid was trying to beat. There are no previous speed records over 4,970 miles listed on the Web site of the world's Air Sports Federation.

Schmid, 58, is survived by a wife and two sons.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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