Image: P-51 crash
Mike Paschal  /  AP
A vintage P-51 Mustang smashes into the ground at the Experimental Aircraft Association's annual AirVenture show in Oshkosh, Wis., on Friday after colliding with another WWII-era fighter.
updated 7/29/2007 12:21:44 AM ET 2007-07-29T04:21:44

A biplane performing stunts for an air show crashed into a runway Saturday in front of thousands of spectators, killing the pilot, officials said.

Jim LeRoy, 46, was in one of two planes making loop-to-loops with smoke trailing as part of the annual air show at Dayton International Airport. His Pitts aircraft slammed into the runway across a field from spectators and caught fire. The crowd stood stunned as the show was shut down.

“It came down and didn’t have enough room,” said Aaron Smith, who was watching with his 5-year-old son. “I could hear it crunch, hard. Some pieces came off.”

The plane struck the ground at an angle and slid about 300 yards, bursting into flames and spewing smoke, said Airport Fire Chief Mark Carpenter. It took less than a minute for fire trucks to arrive and start putting out the fire.

“We cut Mr. LeRoy out of the aircraft,” Carpenter said.

LeRoy died en route to Miami Valley Hospital, Carpenter said. The crash’s cause was being investigated.

LeRoy, a Marine veteran who had a degree in aeronautical engineering, was a design engineer with GE Aircraft Engines until he became a full-time stunt pilot in 1997.

He won the Art Scholl Award for showmanship in 2002, presented by the International Council of Air Shows, and the Bill Barber Award for showmanship in 2003, presented by the World Airshow News.

A performance by the Air Force Thunderbirds was canceled. Some people with ticket stubs from Saturday will be admitted to Sunday’s scheduled performance, officials said.

Crashes mar Wisconsin airshow
On Friday, two single-engine war planes at an experimental airshow in Wisconsin collided while landing, killing one of the pilots and injuring the other, officials said.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the collision with the two P-51 Mustangs happened at 3:17 p.m. after the planes finished a performance at the Experimental Aircraft Association’s annual AirVenture show in Oshkosh.

P-51 Mustangs are single-seat fighters that were used in World War II.

FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board investigators were on the scene on Friday.

NTSB spokesman Ted Lopatkiewicz said one pilot died and the other had minor injuries when the planes clipped wings on landing. He said an NTSB investigator on the scene scheduled a news briefing at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Wittman Regional Airport terminal.

Another Oshkosh crash
On Monday, a veteran pilot trying to break a speed record en route to Oshkosh was killed when his small, experimental plane crashed into an apartment building and playground in Switzerland.

The pilot, identified as Hans Georg Schmid, a former Swissair pilot, had been trying to break a world record for a solo single-engine flight. He had planned to fly more than 4,970 miles with a C1-D class of plane, aiming to reach his destination in 30 hours.

The annual convention is considered one of the world’s largest gatherings of recreational aviators. It draws more than 600,000 people and 10,000 planes from around the world. The weeklong event ends Sunday.

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