Award Winning Pilot Killed In Stunt Show Crash

UPDATE: DAYTON, Ohio (AP) -- An award-winning stunt pilot who performed in air shows across the country was killed Saturday when his biplane crashed in front of thousands of people.

Jim LeRoy, 46, was in one of two planes making loop-to-loops with smoke trailing as part of the annual air show at Dayton International Airport. His Pitts aircraft slammed into the runway across a field from spectators and caught fire.

The crowd stood stunned as the show was shut down.

"It came down and didn't have enough room," said Aaron Smith, of Troy, who was watching the exhibition with his 5-year-old son, Weston. "I could hear it crunch, hard. Some pieces came off."

Airport fire chief Mark Carpenter said it took less than a minute for fire trucks to arrive and start putting out the fire.

He said LeRoy's plane struck the ground at an angle and slid about 300 yards after impact, bursting into flames and spewing black smoke.

"We cut Mr. LeRoy out of the aircraft," Carpenter said.

LeRoy died en route to Miami Valley Hospital, Carpenter said.

The cause of the crash was under investigation.

A performance by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds was canceled. But officials said people who had ticket stubs from Saturday would be admitted to Sunday's scheduled performance.

LeRoy, a Marine veteran who had a degree in aeronautical engineering, was a design engineer with GE Aircraft Engines until he became a full-time stunt pilot in 1997.

He won the Art Scholl Award for showmanship in 2002, presented by the International Council of Air Shows, and the Bill Barber Award for showmanship in 2003, presented by the World Airshow News.

LeRoy was to be one of the featured performers at the Oceana Air Show in September at Naval Air Station Oceana, Va. In advertising for the show, LeRoy got second billing to the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, and he described his aggressive flying style this way:

"People want to see low, wild, and seemingly out of control, but at the same time they want discipline, precision, and complete control," LeRoy said. "You've got to take those elements and fuse them together in just the right way."