Air Show Pilot Saves Hundreds of Lives.
One hundred people were reported dead and three hundred reported injured after a crash at an air show. At last weekend's air show at Hamilton International Airport, a General Dynamics F-16C Fighting Falcon, piloted by Lt. Bob Stevenson, crashed into the audience after suffering severe engine damage. A seagull flew into the Falcon's Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 turbofan engine while the pilot attempted to perform a full afterburning, 9G turn. Fragments of the fan scattered and damaged the aircraft's control surfaces, limiting the pilot's ability to control the plane. At the time of the accident, the plane was traveling at a speed of four hundred and fifty kilometers per hour in a three hundred and sixty degree turn at an altitude of only two hundred feet. At this time it was impossible for Lt. Stevenson to direct the plane away from the spectators, so, instead of ejecting and saving his own life, he stayed in the cockpit and struggled to direct to plane into the area of the crowd where the smallest number of people were standing.
Experts believe that if the F-16 had not been redirected, the death toll could have reached upwards of five hundred people. Retired Air Force pilot Mark Grumman, "That there plane was headed straight for the bulk of the crowd. That pilot did a heck of a job to turn the plane over there with his wings all sliced up like that." Another spectator said, " That plane was headed right at me, but then the pilot was able to crash it into a relatively empty spot. He saved my life, and the lives of all these people around me. It's a good thing that the plane wasn't full of fuel, or it would have been ten times worse with the explosion." The organizers of the air show are carefully looking into this incident too see if it is necessary to reconsider having the spectators seated only forty feet away from the flightline. Pilot, Lt. Stevenson was representing the 4th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing, from Hill Air Force Base, in Utah, in his tenth air show. Lt. Stevenson was a late edition to the air show schedule after the MiG-29 Fulcrum of Major Slava Yakovlev, of the Russian Air Force, was grounded due to engine problems.