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Pilot Blamed for Crash that Killed Him at Santa Fe Air Show


Associated Press
      A stunt airplane that crashed during an air show at Santa Fe's airport, killing the pilot, was caused by his failure to control the craft, federal investigators say.
    Richard Bobbitt, 46, a former Navy pilot from Parker, Colo., died Oct. 2, 2004, as hundreds of spectators watched at the Santa Fe Municipal Airport.
    His single-engine 1993 Sukhoi SU-29 was working properly before it crashed and burst into flames, the National Transportation Safety Board said.
    Bobbitt was performing a maneuver called a torque roll under clear skies at about 1,500 feet above the ground, the NTSB said in a probable cause report released Oct. 27.
    He apparently waited too long to try to recover after the airplane stalled, went into an inverted spin and spiraled nose-first into the ground, investigators said.
    In a torque roll, an airplane pulls into a vertical climb at full throttle. As it runs out of airspeed, torque from the engine and propeller turns the airplane, which then falls off in one direction, nose down. The pilot then flies the craft out of the dive.
    A witness told the NTSB that he saw the Sukhoi go into a flat spin and make three revolutions before the pilot came off the throttle.
    The rotation stopped, the airplane yawed, and the engine came in before the airplane went into a spin and the engine went to full power, the witness said.
    The pilot made a turn-and-a-half before the crash, the witness said.
    A former importer and dealer of SU-29s told the NTSB that engine power cannot be reduced during a torque roll maneuver, otherwise the airplane will fall off wrong and there will not be enough altitude to recover.
    Bobbitt had logged 11,550 hours of flying time — 222 of them in the Russian-built training and aerobatic SU-29, the NTSB said.
    Bobbitt had enlisted in the Navy and earned his Wings of Gold in 1979. He piloted the Navy's P-3 Orion, a four-engine airplane used to track Soviet submarines during the Cold War. He also was a veteran of the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
    After retiring form the Navy, Bobbitt joined United Airlines, flying jetliners including the Boeing 737 and 767.