Video: Vintage plane crashes at W. Va. air show

updated 9/18/2011 12:03:20 PM ET 2011-09-18T16:03:20

The pilot of a post-World War II plane that crashed into a runway and exploded during a West Virginia air show was a passionate flyer and Air Force veteran who always put safety first, the man's son said Sunday.

John "Flash" Mangan was killed Saturday when the T-28 plane crashed and burst into flames as hundreds of horrified spectators looked on. It marked the second deadly air show crash in a 24-hour period. A day earlier, a plane crashed during a show in Reno, Nev., killing the pilot and eight others and sending dozens to the hospital.

"He was a great pilot and a wonderful parent and husband," Sean Mangan, 27, said of his 54-year-old father.

The elder Mangan graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy, served in the Air Force for 13 years and had been piloting planes more than three decades, Sean Mangan told The Associated Press. He had flown on the T-28 Warbird Aerobatic Formation Demonstration Team for five years.

He was married and had three children, including Sean. John Mangan also was a partner in a chain of fast-food restaurants in Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania, Sean Mangan said.

The T-28 aerobatic team is known as the Trojan Horsemen. Mangan's biography on the site said the former Air Force fighter pilot won three Meritorious Service Medals and Tactical Air Command's Instructor Pilot of the Year.

Federal officials are investigating what caused Mangan's plane to crash.

Thousands of people were watching from a distance but no one was injured when the aircraft wobbled and crashed Saturday, authorities said. Many in the crowd hugged each other and cried after seeing the aircraft appear to disintegrate in a fireball.

The acrobatic team performs in air shows across such as the Thunder Over the Blue Ridge airshow organized over the weekend at an airport near Martinsburg, according to Gen. James Hoyer, West Virginia Air National Guard adjutant. The show is put on by the Air National Guard.

The rest of the air show, including Sunday's planned performances, were canceled.

The Journal of Martinsburg reported the aircraft lost control during a six-plane stunt formation and then crashed on a runway near hangers at the airfield.

The paper said a National Transportation Safety Board investigator was expected to arrive Sunday as part of the investigation. A news conference was expected later Sunday afternoon.

According to The Boeing Co.'s website, the North American T-28 Trojan was a basic trainer that was used by the U.S Navy, including for carrier operation. Its first flight was in 1949 and it was designed to transition pilots to jet aircraft.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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