Weyers Cave, VA Stunt Plane Crashes, Sep 1976



Weyers Cave, Va. -- It was the last act of a two-day air show at Shenandoah Valley Airport here.
Pilot GERALD PRESSON of Miami Springs, Fla., guided a home-built Pitts Special through a series of tumbling maneuvers Sunday afternoon, frequently dipping behind a hill just east of the runway.
Then, after being airborne about 15 minutes, the plane went into "an upside-down flat spin" and once again disappeared behind the hill. But the crowd's anticipation was met only by a "crunch of metal."
A grandstand announcer told the 4,500 confused spectators: "Ladies and gentlemen, that is not an act."
The plane was demolished; its pilot was fatally injured.
Rescue teams and Virginia state police rushed to the scene of the crash about 200 yards east of Va. 900.
Rusty Wright of the Staunton area, a former Air Force pilot watching the performance from an access road east of the airport, said he realized the plane was going to crash as soon as it went into a flat spin.
"That's about the worst thing that can happen to you," Mr. Wright said, adding that a flat spin at such a low altitude "doesn't leave you much room to come out of it."
He continued, "I yelled to Dad, 'He's going to crash.'"
The young man said he began running toward the scene of the crash, some 200 yards from his location, before the plane hit.
"The motor was still running when he hit the ground," Mr. Wright reported. Although the plane fell straight down and upside-down, he added, at the last moment "it tried to turn over and the right wing hit the ground first."
Mr. Wright said the pilot had "blood coming out of his ears" and there was no evidence of any "heart beat" but added there was a "muscle reaction" in the pilot's shoulder.
Other witnesses said the pilot had massive head and internal injuries, and state police said MR. PRESSON apparently died instantly in the 3:30 p.m. crash.
Rescue workers freed MR. PRESSON'S body from the wreckage and took it to King's Daughter' Hospital in Staunton and then to Waynesboro Community Hospital.

Harrisonburg Daily News Record Virginia 1976-09-27