Tyndall AFB Airshow Accident Claims SP-95 Pilot, Chris Smisson | Aero-News Network
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Sat, Mar 22, 2003

Tyndall AFB Airshow Accident Claims SP-95 Pilot, Chris Smisson

A late Saturday airshow crash has claimed the life of a talented civilian pilot flying a Technoavia SP-95 aerobatic aircraft.

Chris Smisson, a highly accomplished member of the Airshow Unlimited Airshow team, flying at the Gulf Coast Salute 2003 Airshow at Tyndall Air Force Base, perished in a "near vertical" impact that reportedly occurred as part of a faux race between his aircraft and a jet-powered truck. No personnel or spectators on the ground were injured.

One spectator described the impact as "head first," and other reports indicate that the aircraft was coming out of a loop (supposedly in preparation for a high-speed low pass) as part of the aforementioned race, when the accident occurred.

Another witness stated, "He didn't pull up or anything. He just crashed." The Air Force has indicated that it will be assisting the NTSB in the investigation of this accident.

The Technoavia SP-95 is a Russian built, M14-P radial powered two seater produced for high performance aerobatics. There are only a few in the country and two were listed on the roster of the Airshow Unlimited Aerobatic team.

According to his extensive bio; Chris Smisson had over 14,000 hours of flying time and flew professionally for a major airline out of Atlanta, GA. His flying credentials included an Airline Transport Rating with type ratings in the North American Saberliner, Boeing 727, 757, and 767 aircraft. He also held a commercial rating for multi-engine and single engine, land and seaplanes, as well as gliders and was also a flight instructor in gliders. Chris was the United States Intermediate Glider Aerobatic Champion in 1989 and was a member of the United States Glider Aerobatic Team in 1991. Chris, along with team members Steve Coan, and Dr. Charles Kalko were the only US glider Aerobatic team in US history to win a team medal in international competition. Chris, his wife and son lived on Smisson Field, with their own farm and airfield west of Atlanta, flying a Mooney, Zlin 526 F and SP-95.

Chris had been doing airshows since 1986 and held a surface level 1 waiver with qualifications in the North American T-6, Beechcraft T-34, the Zlin 526F, Technoavia SP-95 and Pilatus Aircraft as well as Gliders. He also held waivers for Solo Aerobatics as well as dogfight demonstrations.

A performance of the US Air Force Thunderbirds, scheduled late that day, was canceled, but the team is expected to fly a show on Sunday.

Tyndall AFB's 325th Fighter Wing Commander, Brig. Gen. Larry New, closed the show and placed it under an increased security watch in the aftermath of the accident. USAF and USANG personnel thereafter conducted spot checks and vehicle inspections as spectators left the area.

Tyndall AFB's Capt. Chris Karns has confirmed that the airshow gates will reopen at 0800 Sunday morning and that the USAF Thunderbirds are still scheduled to fly.

FMI: www.airshowunlimited.com, www.gulfcoastsalute.homestead.com

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