DAYTON — The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds canceled their Saturday performance at the Vectren Dayton Air Show following an accident after the Number 8 plane landed on Friday afternoon.
The plane, which slid off the end of the runway, tipped on its side and it took nearly two hours to extricate the pilot and an aircraft maintainer.
Captain Erik Gonsalves, identified as the pilot, and TSgt. Kenneth Cordova, an aircraft maintainer, suffered minor injuries and are in good condition according to Lt. Colonel Jason Heard, the Commander/Leader of the flight demonstration team.
Gonsalves suffered some cuts and a leg injury but they are not considered life threatening.
Whether the team flies on Sunday will be decided once Heard and his superiors determine if the team can me mission-ready.
“If I can’t ensure team safety and crowd safety, we won’t fly,” he said.
The accident happened just after 12:30 p.m. when the plane returned to Dayton International Airport from what the Thunderbirds described as a familiarization flight. How exactly the accident happened, and whether the heavy rain that blanketed the region most of the day played a role, will be determined by an accident investigation board.
Heard, when asked whether the rain and winds played a factor, declined to comment.
“It’s best not to speculate,” said Heard. “It is better to wait for the full facts of the investigative board.”
Terry Slaybaugh, Director of Aviation for the city of Dayton, said it took “an inordinate amount of time” to extricate the pilot and a passenger, but said both were conscious when transported to the hospital.
“It was complicated,” he said.
Fire crews from the Dayton International Airport, Vandalia, Butler Township, and a crash recovery team from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base responded to the scene.
“It was a tremendous effort,” said Heard. “We are impressed and grateful that they were able to extract our two Thunderbirds and make sure they got to the hospital safely, and we are thankful they are in good condition.
Slaybaugh briefed the media with Michael Emhoff, chairman of the United States Air and Trade Show, the entity that puts on the Vectren Dayton Air Show.
Emhoff said the show will go on as planned Saturday minus the Thunderbirds.
We will update this story once a decision has been reached on Sunday’s performance or any other information becomes available.
Reach Darrell Wacker at (937) 684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.
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