MHAFB airshow dedicated to memory of hang glider pilot killed in Saturday crash
A veteran hang glider died Saturday when he crashed during the Gunfighter Skies Air & Space Celebration at Mountain Home Air Force Base.
The 366th Fighter Wing identified the pilot as Dan Buchanan, 62, and announced that Sunday's second day of the show will continue as scheduled. Gates will open at 8:30 a.m. and the first events start at 10:30 at the base, about 50 miles southeast of Boise.
Sunday's show will be dedicated to Buchanan, a resident of Dayton, Nevada. He died after being taken to a local hospital. Friends said he is survived by a brother and a son.
The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team to investigate the crash.
Boise photographer Bernie Deyo tweeted that Buchanan hit the ground hard on the west side of the air base. Military personnel responded to provide medical assistance.
"I’m not sure exactly what happened but [the] glider plummeted about 1,000 feet straight down after a show plane clipped its tow cable & impacted the ground hard & violently," Deyo tweeted.
Another witness, who declined to identify himself, told the Idaho Statesman that the tow line was not clipped but intentionally released as part of the act, which took place about 1:30 p.m..
"He did a whole bunch of acrobatics that were intentional and then as he was coming in to land, it looked like he caught a crosswind and it flipped him upside-down and shot the nose into the ground," he said.
He estimated that Buchanan was 40 to 50 feet off the ground when he encountered trouble.
Buchanan suffered a spinal injury in 1981 while landing a hang glider in bad weather. Although he couldn't walk after that, he returned to flying six months later and logged more than 3,000 hours of flight time in hang gliders and sailplanes, according to his website.
He was also licensed as a private and commercial pilot. He made his first appearance at an air show in Medford, Oregon, in 1989. He appeared annually at more than 25 airshows.
The Thunderbirds, an elite U.S. Air Force aerial group performing at Mountain Home, tweeted their condolences.
"The collective hearts of the entire U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds are with Dan Buchanan, his family, his friends and his demonstration team," they wrote.
Air show reporter Lunar Sawyer, in a tribute, wrote that Buchanan was an inspiration.
LiveAirShowTV, an air show broadcaster, also paid tribute to Buchanan.
At a Gunfighter Skies show in September 2003, an F-16C jet from the Thunderbirds crashed and exploded. The crash, in which the pilot ejected safely and no spectators were injured, sent a fireball and smoke into the sky in front of tens of thousands of spectators.