Aerobatics played role in deadly crash
Pilot, passenger died when WWII-era F-51D crashed
A new report of the National Transportation Safety Board suggests aerobatic maneuvering played a role in the crash of a WWII-era plane that killed both pilot and passenger south of Phoenix in February 2016.
Several witnesses told investigators they saw the North American F-51D “performing acrobatic-type maneuvers” moments before it plummeted to the ground about six miles southwest of the city of Maricopa.
“One witness, described the maneuver as a ‘regular loop.’ The witness stated that, during the last half of the maneuver, the airplane never pulled up,” the report said.
Killed in the crash were the plane’s owner and pilot, 61-year-old Jeffrey Pino of Chandler, and passenger Nickolas Tramontano, 72, of Brookfield, Connecticut. Pino was a former president of Sikorsky Aircraft, a military and commercial helicopter manufacturer, and had previously been a senior vice president of Bell Helicopter.
The North American F-51D, a type of American Fighter used in World War II, crashed at approximately 12 p.m. Feb. 5 in Maricopa near Papago and Ralston roads. Other witnesses reported seeing the plane descend in a nose-down spiral until it hit the ground, according to the NTSB investigation.
The autopsy report stated Pino’s cause of death as “multiple blunt force injuries,” according to the NTSB report. There was no trace of a medical event precipitating the crash.
The plane, named Big Beautiful Doll, departed from Stellar Airpark in Chandler that morning. A flight plan was not filed, the report states.
The F-51D manual states that the plane was not designed for power-on spins or snap rolls, and “most attempts end up in a power spin,” the report stated. Calculations in the investigation report state that the pilot was not at the specific altitude required to recover from the maneuvers.
Suzanne Barnes, a resident who lives near the crash location, told ABC15 that she knew something was different about this flight. She explained that she heard the engine going in and out, followed by an explosion and the power going out. When she walked out her front door, she saw a huge black plume of smoke.
GABRIELLA DEL RIO