Local (SoFla) Pilot Ian Groom killed during Air Show practice [Archive] - Glock Talk


View Full Version : Local (SoFla) Pilot Ian Groom killed during Air Show practice

05-01-2004, 11:03
MGomez81 and I were thinking about going to the beach on Friday, to watch pilot practice for the McDonald's Air & Sea Show, a yearly tribute to the military. Basically, one million spectators stand on the beach ad watch hi tech military aircraft race by, about three hundred yards offshore.

Thursday afternoon I decided it would be too much to try to fit my other plans in as well as a trip to the beach, so I called Mike and cancelled.

Friday, during practice, local South Florida pilot Ian Groom crashed his single-seat Sukhoi into the sea and was killed. It was his 58th birthday.

Best wishes to his friends and family during this very sad time.


Here's the story from the Sun Sentinel (our local liberal rag):

Ian Groom, a top-ranked aerobatic pilot and one of the premiere performers scheduled to be in this weekend's McDonald's Air & Sea Show, was killed during practice Friday, when his Russian-made plane plunged into the Atlantic Ocean near Sunrise Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale.

It was the first fatal accident associated with the giant show, which for the past nine years has attracted hundreds of thousands of spectators to a four-mile stretch between Las Olas and Oakland Park boulevards.

["Today's] show will be in memory of Ian," said Elaine Fitzgerald, spokeswoman for the air show, which runs through Sunday. "The Canadian Snow Birds will do a missing man formation for him."

Groom, a longtime Boca Raton resident who moved to Naples three years ago, died on his 58th birthday. He left behind a wife, Mimi, and a young son, Daniel. His family could not be reached for comment.

"I knew Ian well enough to know he would want everyone reminded that he was doing what he loved. Aviation was his passion," said Mickey Markoff, Air & Sea Show executive producer.

After taking off from Pompano Beach Air Park in a Sukhoi Su-31, Groom was about 15 minutes into a 45-minute routine, practicing flat spins, where a plane twirls as it drops. It is considered a precarious maneuver for anyone who isn't a highly experienced pilot.

At 2:16 p.m., the plane plunged from about 2,500 feet and never recovered, said Kathleen Bergen, spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration, which is investigating the accident.

The single-seat Sukhoi struck the ocean about a half-mile offshore east of Northeast 16th Street, about six blocks north of Sunrise Boulevard, fire-rescue officials said. The plane quickly sank in 50 to 100 feet of water, although some pieces of wreckage were recovered, Bergen said.

Witnesses said everything appeared normal until the last minute.

"He was dropping straight down. At the beginning it looked controlled. Even at the very end it did. We just expected him to pull out, but he didn't," said Stewart Barcalow, of Fort Lauderdale, who witnessed the crash from a sailboat. "There was a splash and that was it."

Wayne Boggs, the air show boss who acts as an air traffic controller for show planes, said he has seen Groom perform flat spins in at least 30 air shows.

Typically, a pilot would want to get out of the flat spin when the altitude is between 1,000 and 500 feet. But when Groom descended past 500 feet, Boggs said he knew something was wrong.

Boggs, who was on the beach at Sunrise Boulevard and in radio contact with him, said Groom didn't indicate he was in trouble.

"There was no conversation between him and me prior to him hitting the water," Boggs said. "As far as I can tell, he was doing his normal practice session."

Jim and Linda Gordon, of Fort Lauderdale, were on the beach sidewalk near Sunrise Boulevard and saw the plane enter its fall.

"At several points it was pumping out smoke, which is normal in this kind of stunt," said Jim Gordon, who is a pilot. "But he should have initiated a maneuver to get out of the flat spin and he didn't. I'm sure he tried to."

Boggs said the show would go on as scheduled. "In no way do I want to sound callous, but the show does go on," he said.

The Air & Sea Show has an emergency disaster plan that went into effect immediately.

Because it was charged with providing security in the area, the U.S. Coast Guard had boats and aircraft in the immediate vicinity of the crash, said Petty Officer Sandra Bartlett.

Coast Guard rescuers pulled Groom from the plane, put him on a speedboat and rushed him to shore, where Fort Lauderdale fire-rescue workers took Groom to a temporary medical treatment facility in Birch State Park.

He was then taken to Broward General Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, where he was pronounced dead at 3:30 p.m., said Fort Lauderdale Fire Division Chief Stephen McInerny.

"We did everything we could to get him to the hospital in time," he said.

Friday's accident took place in front of scores of bathers and workers preparing for the beachside extravaganza, but still a small gathering compared to the crowds expected today and Sunday.

Two hours earlier, hundreds of schoolchildren had been on the beach to watch a preview of the air show, including the Army's elite Golden Knights Parachute team, but missed seeing the accident.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it was waiting for more information before deciding whether to investigate, said safety inspector John Lovell. The agency might decline to look into the matter because the Sukhoi is considered an experimental aircraft, officials said.

Groom's death shocked the aviation community and notably those in aerobatic circles.

"Accidents in air shows have become infrequent enough that any accident, fatal or otherwise, shocks us," said John Cudahy, president of International Council of Air Shows in Leesburg, Va. "Ian's is particularly surprising because he was a leader in our business and such an experienced pilot."

Groom, who first flew a plane when he was only 7, had been performing at air shows around the world since the early 1980s. In addition to being a popular figure on the U.S. aerobatic show circuit, he had competed in the World Aerobatic Championship and European Aerobatics Championship.

He had been a featured performer in the Air & Sea Show since its inception in 1995. Earlier this week, he gave members of the news media plane rides, telling them to brace for a roller coaster experience.

Groom had a reputation for performing tumultuous maneuvers, such as snap-rolling his plane around at a rate of two turns per second or putting the plane into steep dives.

Although to spectators the stunts might have seemed perilous, Groom once told a South Florida Sun-Sentinel reporter: "It's really precision flying. It's not just going up and being crazy."

Staff Writer David Fleshler contributed to this report.

Ken Kaye can be reached at kkaye@sun-sentinel.com or 954-385-7911.

M2 Carbine
05-01-2004, 14:55
"Boggs, who was on the beach at Sunrise Boulevard and in radio contact with him, said Groom didn't indicate he was in trouble."

"There was no conversation between him and me prior to him hitting the water," Boggs said. "As far as I can tell, he was doing his normal practice session."

Something physical?
Something like a heart attack comes to mind right away.

But everyone in trouble doesn't come on the radio yelling, Oh *****.

Well, I hope there's some comfort to those he left behind, knowing that he was doing the thing he loved ;w