FAIRFIELD (AP) -- A well-known stunt pilot and owner of Eddie Andreini Air Shows out of Half Moon Bay was killed on Sunday when his Stearman biplane crashed and burned during the Thunder Over Solano air show at Travis Air Force Base in Solano County.
Andreini, 77, performed in nearly 1,000 air shows. In 2004, the International Council of Air Shows gave him its Sword of Excellence Award, the highest honor an air show pilot can receive. In 2013, Andreini was inducted into the ICAS Hall of Fame.
Reports said the vintage 1944 biplane crashed in an open field away from the thousands of spectators at 2:05 p.m. Black smoke rose from the wreckage as crowds were evacuated from the base. Emergency responders went to the wreckage, but it was too late to save Andreini.
Sgt. Rachel Martinez, a spokeswoman for the base, said nobody in attendance was injured in the crash that happened as the pilot performed an acrobatic aerial maneuver over the tarmac. Andreini was performing in the last leg of the show -- flying upside down and low to the ground just before the crash.
Angie Giles, a spectator from Antioch, said the plane "flipped over to do a trick and hit the ground and dragged over the ground."
Lynn Lunsford of the Federal Aviation Administration said his agency was already on site and will be a member of the team. He also said the National Transportation Safety Board will head up an investigation.
"The weather conditions were similar to what you're experiencing right now," said 60th Operations Group Commander Col. David Mott. "Of course, if we look at yesterday the winds were much gustier. Stronger gusts down the runway. What I can tell you is the winds were approximately 10 to 15 knots and that will also be a part of the investigation. I can't give you the exact details of that, as the National Transportation Safety Board will get the exact details of that. And we do have the capability to capture that information." Witnesses say two Air Force personnel tried to rescue the pilot.
The air show last took place at the military base three years ago. Security Forces are requesting any video or photos of the accident taken by individuals at the air show to assist with the investigation.