The pilot of a Korean War-era fighter plane involved in a midair collision over San Pablo Bay, killing the pilot of a Cessna 210, turned down a suggestion by the Cessna's pilot for a photo opportunity minutes before the crash, then watched as the Cessna inverted and fell toward the water moments after the collision, officials said Friday.
The April 27 crash killed the Cessna's pilot, 33-year-old David Everett Plumb, of Rocklin, a suburb north of Sacramento. The pilot and a passenger in the fighter plane, a Hawker Sea Fury, survived the crash, according to a preliminary report released Friday by the National Transportation Safety Board. The Sea Fury's pilot was not identified in the report.
After the collision, the NTSB said, the Sea Fury pilot flew his plane to both planes' home airport in Amador County, trying to avoid populated areas as he checked his plane's controls. Both planes are owned by Sanders Aeronautics, according to the NTSB; officials there refused to comment Friday.
Both planes were traveling from Half Moon Bay Airport, where they had been displayed in an airport open house during an air show.
The Sea Fury pilot had just finished several 360-degree turns over the Golden Gate Bridge for a photo shoot with a Beechcraft A36 Bonanza and was headed to Eagles Nest Airport in Ione when he saw the Cessna around 4 p.m., the NTSB said. The Sea Fury pilot radioed to Plumb that he would pass low and to the left, and Plumb replied that it would be a good picture.
The surviving pilot, guiding the Sea Fury at about 200 mph, said a photo probably wouldn't work because of the speed differential between the two planes, the report states, though it does not say how fast the Cessna was traveling.
"The Sea Fury pilot proceeded on a path that he thought would allow adequate separation; however, as he was passing the Cessna, he felt and heard a thump, and he realized that the two airplanes had collided," the report states. "He pulled up, looked over his shoulder, and he observed the Cessna inverted and going down."
The Sea Fury pilot responded by starting a climb, checking his controls and contacting company personnel while en route to the airport. The pilot landed the plane safely despite significant damage to its tail.
Authorities found wreckage from the Cessna about 13 feet below the surface of San Pablo Bay on April 28 and pulled it out two days later, finding Plumb's body inside. According to the NTSB, the Cessna's left wing and propeller were never found.
A final determination from the NTSB will likely take several months.
Contact Rick Hurd at 925-945-4789 and follow him at Twitter.com/3rdERH.