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Californian pilot dies at British air show

A leading U.S. stunt pilot was killed Saturday when her light aircraft crashed at an aerobatic show in central England.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A leading U.S. stunt pilot was killed Saturday when her light aircraft crashed at an aerobatic show in central England.

Vicki Cruse, 40, from Santa Paula, Calif., died in an accident during the World Aerobatic Championships at Britain's Silverstone motor racing circuit.

Cruse, who was president of the International Aerobatics Club, is a former member of the U.S. national aerobatics team and was the first woman to qualify to race in her class at the Reno National Championship Air Races.

Team manager Norm DeWitt said Cruse had been carrying out a qualifying flight when she lost control of her aircraft.

DeWitt said in a statement that Cruse appeared to have suffered a mechanical problem in flight and was unable to bail out of her Edge 540 plane because of the low altitude at which she was flying.

"The USA lost one of its most outstanding pilots, and the IAC lost the finest president we have ever had," DeWitt said.

Event organizers said Cruse was the only person aboard the Edge 540, and police confirmed no one else was hurt.

"Cruse was the sole occupant of the aircraft and the incident did not involve any other persons," event organizers Flying Aces said in a statement. "The incident is under investigation."

The event, held every two years, involved about 70 aerobatic pilots competing for world titles in stunt flying and aerobatics.

Police said accident investigators were due to visit the scene in an attempt to confirm the cause of Cruse's death.

Cruse was born in Springfield, Mo., and won a U.S. national aerobatic title in 2007. She had served as president of the International Aerobatics Club since 2005.

"Vicki was an outstanding competitor and was passionate about flying," said Tom Poberezny, chairman and president of the Experimental Aircraft Association. "Her flying skills and enthusiasm were highly valued."