Smoke rises from the site where a biplane crashed during an aerial performance at the Thunder Over Solano air expo and open house at Travis Air Force Base, Sunday. (Courtesy photo/Christiana Maffei)


Plane crashes, kills pilot: Travis air expo canceled

By From page A1 | May 05, 2014

FAIRFIELD — A plane crashed Sunday during the Thunder Over Solano air expo and open house at Travis Air Force Base, killing the veteran civilian pilot and prompting base officials to end the day’s show and send people home.

Sgt. Rachel Martinez, a spokeswoman for the base, said nobody in attendance was injured in the crash that happened at 2:05 p.m.

Col. David R. Mott, commander of the 60th Operations Group at the base, said the plane was trying to perform a maneuver known as “cutting a ribbon” where it inverts and flies close to the ground so that a knife attached to the plane can slice a ribbon just off the ground.

Angie Giles, a spectator from Antioch, said the plane “flipped over to do a trick and hit the ground and dragged over the ground.”

Green Valley resident Mike Coan was standing next to the show announcer when the plane crashed. He said the pilot had made about three attempts to cut the ribbon. On the fourth try, the plane was flying inverted.

“The wind hit and it went down on the tarmac,” Coan said. “It was pretty sad.”

Chris Burns, also of Green Valley, thought the plane was traveling about 20 feet off the ground before it crashed.

The crash happened within view of a huge crowd. Martinez said organizers estimated that 100,000 people attended the air show Sunday.

Mott confirmed during a 5:30 p.m. press conference that Eddie Andreini, 77, of Half Moon Bay, died when his restored 1944 Stearman biplane crashed during Sunday’s performance. Andreini has been flying since he was 16 and in high school and had 30 years of air show experience, according to his website.

Questions about the emergency response time for firefighters at the base emerged quickly after the crash.

Burns and Coan both said it seemed like at least five minutes before emergency crews got there. The first help to arrive was someone in a small truck with a hand-held fire extinguisher, Coan said.

Fairfield resident Andrea Garcia, who was just arriving at the show with her family when the plane crashed, said there were numerous emergency vehicles immediately on scene. Fairfield Mayor Harry Price was in the distinguished visitor’s area and said responders got to the site as quickly as they could.

Mott said during the Sunday evening press conference that emergency vehicles cannot be stationed on the tarmac during an air show. That’s a requirement to provide a clear safety zone during performances.

Price did not see the actual impact but knew from the crowd’s reaction something had happened.

“There were a lot of audible prayers and silent prayers,” he said.

The base was shut down immediately after the crash with no one was allowed on or off. The announcement came at about 2:20 p.m. that the show was canceled and people were asked to leave. Price said it took him about 45 minutes to get off the base.

The base asks that anyone with photographs or video of the crash to contact base security at 424-2000. The photos and video will be used to investigate the crash.

Andreini was one of numerous aerial performers leading to a headline demonstration by the U.S. Air Force’s Thunderbirds precision flight team. Sunday’s show was the final day of a two-day air show.

Staff Sgt. Patrick Harrower, also a spokesman for the base, said base officials secured the crash site and were focused in the aftermath of the crash on getting the crowd of civilians safely off the base. The Fairfield Police Department shut down the eastbound lanes of Air Base Parkway at Peabody Road to help with traffic control near the base.

The National Transportation Safety Board will head up an investigation and Lynn Lunsford of the Federal Aviation Administration said the FAA is already on site and will be a member of the team.

“No one wants to see an event like this,” Mott said.

Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr. Brad Stanhope, Glen Faison and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Amy Maginnis-Honey

Amy Maginnis-Honey

Amy Maginnis-Honey joined the staff of the Daily Republic in 1980. She’ll tell you she was only 3 at the time. Over the past three decades she’s done a variety of jobs in the newsroom. Today, she covers arts and entertainment and writes for the Living and news pages.

Discussion | 29 comments

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  • Ol' CapMay 05, 2014 - 5:56 am

    Cancelled the AIR SHOW??!! Because a PILOT died??!! That wouldn't have haqappened in my day. Folks'r too soft these days.

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  • Teach5thMay 05, 2014 - 6:59 am

    Embarrassing comment. A man died while trying to entertain the crowd. Ol' Cap - What exactly is "your day?" Have you ever been a pilot in an air show or had friends who have been pilots in an air show? True - people go to air shows, the circus, races, for the thrill of seeing something risky being done they could/would never do. But, someone dying deserves a bit more respect than a snarky comment.

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  • MDSMay 05, 2014 - 8:31 pm

    He crashed on the main runway. It would need to be closed for the investigation. Hard to have an airshow with the runway fouled. And the area where it crashed would have interfered with operations on both runways.

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  • Diana Mathews McCabeMay 06, 2014 - 12:13 pm

    New Cap. Born...I'm sadden to hear of such an accident. It wasn't in vain. My grandson R.O.T.C. Airmen 1st Class. Nicholas Barnhart volunteered to ride with a thunderbird pilot, then was first to volunteer to co-pilot and did a loop t loop, it was "amazing" he said and will definitely become a pilot along with a captain now. God Bless you ol' cap you helped a new cap be born!

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  • Tani CymanskiMay 05, 2014 - 6:14 am

    My son and I were there 30 minutes before it happened. It's just scary to think that we could've been there.

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  • GuyMay 05, 2014 - 9:40 am

    None of the 100K people in attendance were injured ... don't make this about you.

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  • 2realMay 05, 2014 - 6:16 am

    Price- maybe those prayers you were hearing were prayers to get you out of office!

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  • justsomeguyMay 05, 2014 - 3:39 pm

    Really someone dies and u want to bash the mayor,sickening

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  • CD BrooksMay 05, 2014 - 6:40 am

    RIP Sir.

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  • JimboMay 05, 2014 - 6:52 am

    I figured this was the jerk with the white bi-plane who flies out of Vacaville. So many mornings I have seen that person cavitate his blade loudly over town on purpose at sunrise then go doing somersaults OVER POPULATED AREAS OF TOWN showing off. He needs his license pulled before he kills some people like that pilot who did the same stunts over his Sacramento home and crashed into neighbors houses.. The pilot who died sounds like a talented man who would never have put others at any risk to glorify himself and is truly a tragic loss.

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  • SandraMay 05, 2014 - 8:03 am

    The base commander should be reprimanded for approving a "77 year old pilot" to fly such a fragile plane over "100,000 people"!!!!!!! Commercial pilots are forced to retire at 60!!!! This air show was for the public to see what the Air Force does, not some show off pilot. This happens all too often and needs to be stopped, not more unregulated civilian pilots should fly their hobby planes at air shows period! The base commander is very lucky that no other civilians were killed this could have been a huge disaster.

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  • CD BrooksMay 05, 2014 - 8:20 am

    Sandra, your compassion is underwhelming. Good grief a man died. What is wrong with you people?

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  • justsomeguyMay 05, 2014 - 3:41 pm

    Cd brooks,couldn't of said it better,

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  • clancyMay 05, 2014 - 8:43 am

    This is sad. Is it just me or is anyone else a little anxious about these jet planes screaming over our neighborhoods?

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  • Why did it take SO longMay 05, 2014 - 9:00 am

    Horrible response time Travis! Why did it take so long for the emergency personal to respond? Why weren't the fire trucks closer to flight line? Why was there only ONE person who tried to extinguish the flames when clearly there were several people just standing near and watching. Why wasn't there more than one fire extinguisher available? And if so, why didn't anyone come to this man's aid? Why wasn't there a clear path or a designated " keep clear" lane from the fire department to the flight line? Why did the fire trucks literally have to honk their way through the crowd to get to the burning plane? From other forums and articles, this man should have been in the hospital with burns, not the dead in the morgue. Travis, you have a lot of explaining to do.

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  • perreynoidMay 05, 2014 - 9:29 am

    Well why don't you call the Public Affairs office on base, or the base commander, and demand answers to your questions?

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  • perreynoidMay 05, 2014 - 9:33 am

    I'm sorry, but when I read Half Moon Bay, all I could think of was the little 6 yr old girl who flew a plane, crashed, resulting in the deaths of her, her dad, and another pilot. Am I the only one who would NOT be impressed by an AIRplane cutting a ribbon with scissors? Air planes belong in the AIR-NOT 20 ft from the ground.

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  • GuyMay 05, 2014 - 9:43 am

    Agree ... how many of the 100K attendees would even be able to see the ribbon getting cut by the plane. I'd be more impressed seeing a vintage bi-plane parked on the ground than seeing it try to do stunts.

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  • Rich GiddensMay 05, 2014 - 3:05 pm

    That's because cops are stupid and slow to learn. That's why their low ASVAB scores are their fast track to the bottom of the totempole career field known as ''cop''.

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  • Sarah McKnightMay 05, 2014 - 9:01 pm

    I'm with you on this?? All the why's ? TAFB needs to address the fans/public as well when the investigation is done. There are thousands upon thousands of fans/public needing to know all the same questions that you asked. It was so upsetting that I could barely rest last night. Many people speaking out said it took at least 5 minutes for the first responder... That was somebody with a pick up truck with one fire extinguisher. Really? that took 5 minutes and how many more minutes until fire trucks arrived?? Many, many more. Fire was then put out instantly! All in all, response time was not acceptable. From watching the videos close up, it only confirmed to me.... that there was a huge change Eddie was not dead on impact. I stood and watched in horror as those precious moments seemed to stand still waiting for someone to do something. I then have to remind myself.. This is military... We will never know......

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  • M SmithMay 05, 2014 - 9:06 pm

    You don't put fire trucks out on the flightline. In the event of a crash you do not want your trucks destroyed in the emergency. The trucks will stage in a location far enough away so as not to be involved in any crash.

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  • Bad communication TAFBMay 05, 2014 - 9:56 pm

    So explain to my why 3 years ago when the air show was at Travis there were fire trucks out in the field. Was it because there was a grass fire? I think so. And FYI those fire trucks stayed out there the duration of the show. Illegal my @$$. What happened to service before self? So sad that the ones we put trust in and look up to failed. I wonder what would have happened if it was an airman that crashed. Would they have just stood and stared or would they have taken action? Just for curiosity, I wonder if the Thunderbird are equipped with fire extinguishers? If so, there were 7 of them sitting real close to the crash.

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  • John TaylorMay 05, 2014 - 9:30 pm

    You're right on target!! No excuse, especially on an AFB, to not have emerg vehicles pre-positioned, fully manned, with clear access to the RW! A response time to a known hazardous activity zone on the RW and adjacent "clear areas" should never take more than one minute. That poor guy was probably alive!

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  • John TaylorMay 05, 2014 - 10:27 pm

    This is in response to "why did it take so long". You remain totally correct! Emerg response on most airfields is "iffy"...at best; especially at civil airports! Many of the very busy but smaller ones, have no on-site emerg capability at all....they simply lean on the nearest local fire dept....which is usually miles away!! As to this case...very sad! Chances of him surviving the immediate impact are very high! Further...that it happened on an AFB makes it even less excusable! So let me get this straight.....there were no fire trucks pre-positioned.....and there was no immediate crowd-free access to the RW and adjacent airfield "clear" zones! Over??? If that's correct....either the Base CC or the Wg CC should be fired (and, of course the Fire-Chief! This is ridiculous!!

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  • Rich GiddensMay 05, 2014 - 9:01 am

    If you're wealthy or connected you may defy the laws of man and God. But you can't defy the laws of physics. Those laws are absolute and can't be broken.

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  • Rich GiddensMay 05, 2014 - 9:02 am

    Ramstein 87 was the worst. The FAA changed the rules after that one.

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  • JimMay 05, 2014 - 9:57 am

    About 25 years ago a local fisherman died in a November storm. He had a new boat and in spite of the storm, was headed out to sea to set his crab pots. He was a significant part of a close-knit group of friends, and I was very upset about his death. Talking with my mother (Dora McMullen Sutro) later that evening helped me to understand the logic and sense of his death, and put it into its proper perspective. Dora had been an Officer in the American Red Cross during WWII, she was stationed in England, and managed the Red Cross units in about 5 field hospitals, and had quite a lot of experience dealing with death. She noted that every military incident and accident report form contained a box titled LOD - Yes or No. The initials stood for “Line of Duty” and helped to clarify that the incident occurred while the individual was properly engaged in performing his Duty - in the case of my fisherman friend, he was fishing, and died in the course of his duty, and not in a bar fight while waiting out the storm. Eddie was an acrobatic aircraft pilot, and died doing his duty, which he loved - performing aerobatics at an Air Show. LOD - Yes. We should all be so lucky. RIP, Eddie. You not only thrilled us with your aerobatics; you safely dug the basement for my home. Jim Sutro, Half Moon Bay, CA

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  • justsomeguyMay 05, 2014 - 3:36 pm

    I find many of these comments offensive and self centered. a man died doing what he loved,god bless him and his family and friends,not the rest of u ignorant self centered people.

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  • BMay 05, 2014 - 4:31 pm

    Its no wonder we have the crime problems we do in this area when you read the trash that some of you spew from your finger tips. You sicken me.

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