Federal and Maryland authorities today began investigations to determine the cause of a crash at Martin State Airport that killed a veteran stunt pilot.
State Police, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board were participating in the investigation, said Chuck Jackson, State Police spokesman. Such investigations usually take several months.
Stunt pilot Jack Buford Poage, 62, of Westminster, died of multiple injuries when his 1989 Pitts S-2B single-engine biplane crashed shortly after 2 p.m. yesterday, police said.
Poage was to take his plane through three corkscrew spins during a nose dive from about 1,500 feet, one eyewitness said. For an unknown reason, the pilot added a fourth spin to the maneuver.
In an amateur videotape of the crash, Poage could be heard gunning his engine to pull out of the dive just before the crash. But the plane apparently was too low, and it belly-flopped onto a grassy section of the airport next to the main runway.
Poage was flown by Med-Evac helicopter to Franklin Square Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
"He did four spins and could not pull out and crashed to the ground," said Carol Riley, an airport spokeswoman. "He was killed, of course. Nobody else was killed, thank God."
Riley said the crash occurred "a good distance away" from the 15,000 to 20,000 spectators. "It was well over a thousand feet away," she said. "The people were on one field and the plane landed on another field."
"About another 20 or 30 feet of altitude, and he would have been OK," said Bob Cadwalader, an airline transport pilot from Baltimore, who witnessed the accident.
The accident caused the cancellation of the remaining 11 acts of the Upper Chesapeake Air Show and Sea Food Festival, sponsored by the Essex-Middle River Chamber of Commerce.
The air show, the first at the airport, had been scheduled for Saturday but was moved to yesterday because of rain.
Poage's was the fifth scheduled event. Late into his act, he was to perform an "inverted ribbon-cut" with his plane, meaning he would fly the plane sideways and cut a ribbon with the wings, said Riley.
Poage, the co-manager of the Carroll County Airport, is credited with improving that facility so that it can now accommodate corporate jet aircraft.
Originally called the Westminster Airport until it was bought by the county, the facility for many years had only a dirt runway. It wasn't until Poage took over as manager about 10 years ago that the runway was paved and lengthened to accommodate aircraft larger than single-engine, fixed-wing planes.
Poage's wife, June, herself an accomplished flier, helped manage the Carroll airport. It was not known if she witnessed the crash that killed her husband.
The Poages' two sons also work at the Carroll airport.
On Sept. 2, Poage participated in an air show at the Carroll airport and successfully performed the stunt that took his life yesterday.
In the 1970s, Poage, a licensed flight instructor, taught a 3 1/2 -hour aerobatics course. One of the lessons was how to fly a plane upside down.
He flew in many area air shows in his Czechoslovakian Zlin 526.