A veteran pilot died when he crashed during qualifying for the National Championship Air Races, official said on Tuesday in Reno, where 11 people were killed in 2011 when a World War Two-era planes slammed into the ground near the grandstand.
Retired Air Force fighter pilot Lee Behel, 64, was killed on Monday afternoon when his Osprey GP-5 “Sweet Dreams” racing plane crashed at Reno-Stead Airport, event officials said in a written statement. No other injuries were reported.
Behel was piloting to the only version of the aircraft ever built.
“Lee was a very talented pilot but, more importantly, an enthusiastic and compassionate friend and the entire Air Race family will miss him deeply,” Mike Major, chairman of the Reno Air Racing Association, said in the statement.
“This is a difficult day for all of us and our thoughts and prayers are with Lee’s family and friends,” Major said.
The cause of the accident will be investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board, according to race officials.
Qualifying resumed on Tuesday morning ahead of the official opening of the event on Wednesday, which was expected to include a tribute to Behel.
In 2011, 74-year-old pilot Jimmy Leeward lost control of his vintage P-51 Mustang and crashed in front of the grandstand, killing himself and 10 spectators, raising questions over the safety of such events.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; editing by Gunna Dickson)
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