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NTSB: Plane OK before fatal air show crash

DAYTON, Ohio -- A wing walker and an aerobatic pilot killed in a fiery crash at an air show practiced their performance the previous day and reported no mechanical problems with the plane, according to a preliminary report released yesterday by federal investigators.

Thousands of horrified spectators witnessed the June 22 crash and explosion at the Vectren Air Show near Dayton. The plane was turned upside down and positioned to cross in front of the crowd when the nose pitched slightly and the aircraft abruptly rolled and struck ground, according to the accident report from the National Transportation Safety Board.

The crash left a debris field 145 feet long, the report said.

The preliminary report does not address the cause of the crash. A final report is expected to take months.

The preliminary report was based on information including spectators' videos and photos and initial statements collected by federal investigators. Those statements indicated no mechanical malfunctions were reported after the June 21 practice session by the pilot and the wing walker, the report said.

Some witnesses said they knew something was amiss as the plane was flying too low and slowly. Fairfield resident Thanh Tran said he saw a look of concern on the wing walker's face just before the impact. "She looked very scared," he said.

The Federal Aviation Administration showed clean safety records for pilot Charlie Schwenker, 64, of Oakton, Va., and performer Jane Wicker, 44, of Bristow, Va. Wicker, the third wing walker to die in two years, had two teenage sons and was engaged to a pilot she planned to marry atop a plane. -- AP

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