I watched a plane crash today

Quick background first. I am in the US Army stationed at a Korean Air Base in Korea. My worksite is about 100 meters from the flightline. There is a road, and a dirt berm between us and the pavment. Today we were out doing some training, getting ready for a certification next week. The Korean AF was doing some kind of airshow, and had a crowd out watching their verson of the Thunderbirds/Blue Angels do some acrobatics. They did a bunch of fly-bys and a few tricks that were real nice. I was trying to watch them, and pay attention to the equipment at the same time.

I heard one of the jets coming in, and saw it headed down the runway about 100 ft in the air. Being a fan of airshows I knew there would be another coming from the other direction, and they would do a near miss. Sure enough looking the other way I saw his partner coming at him. As they got parallel to our site they both nosed up and banked 90 degrees passing each other belly to belly. Then they continued the bank into an aileron roll. As I watched they both performed two rolls. Then one aircraft started another roll; looked like he tried to stop the roll, and the aircraft just stopped flying, and started falling. Not sure how to describe it. I think my first words were “Oh, shit. He is going to hit.” Next thing was a big fireball coming up from the flight line. We sent one guy running over to the buildings to call the fire department (I am sure they knew, but never too safe).

They took no time getting out to the crash site. After about 2 minutes there was a small secondary explosion (guessing fuel tank, or something he hit on the ground). His buddies flew around for about 15 minutes, then came in slow over the runway, and peeled off one by one. After that they headed out to another air base.

When we went back to the barracks for lunch we found the Korean AF out escorting all the civilians off post, and heard later that the post was just about locked down.

All day today there has been only helicopters coming in and out. They had a crane out there by 1300(I would guess the accident happened at 1130 or so). At 1800 it was still out there, and there was a couple busses parked near by.

There was no way the pilot made it out alive. There was no ejection, and the fireball was massive. It was horrific to watch, and know before he even hit that there was nothing that could be done. My prayers go out to his familly, and his wingmen.

Just had to get that off my chest.


Wow. Nothing much more to be said. That had to have been tough, Otanx.

That sux. I saw one at the Reno Air Races about 20 years ago, guy got too close to the ground and his wingtip hit, the thing cartwheeled forever. I couldn’t believe it, but the pilot walked away.

You may want to write down everything you can remember. They may talk to you as a witness during the investigation and it will help to refresh your memory.

I can empathise with your experience Otanx, I witnessed a fatal accident at an airshow some years ago. Unfortunately, because of my (limited at the time) flying experience, it was clear to me that he was going to crash quite some time before he did. I remember having the surreal thought, “shit, where’s he going to hit? By the tank? nope a bit further down.” - FWUMPH!

Afterwards, there was a hushed silence among the crowd, none of the screams that you often hear in movies or even footage of other accidents. The silence was followed by various inane comments around me, “gee, I don’t think that was meant to happen” and suchlike.

You’d think those comments would’ve seemed stupid, but people obviously react to shock in different ways, inappropriate jokes being one of them.

I’ve also had several friends killed in aircraft accidents. Although the commercial airlines have a very good safety record, aviation is, and always has been, cruelly unforgiving of error, omission, and complacency.

Here is an article on the crash today. Apperently my times were a little off. Not sure about the 700 meters they claim in the article. Seemed they were alot closer to the ground than that. Nothing else to add really. Still very quiet on post. They haven’t restarted flight operations yet.

There isn’t anything funny about a pilot dying in a crash, but the “The pilot of the plane, identified only by his surname Kim” from the article made me laugh. For those that haven’t been over here Kim is the most common surname in Korea (IIRC 40% of the population) The real sad part is “About 3,000 picnickers, mostly children, were gathered around the air base runway to watch the air show.” WOW! I didn’t see the crowd from where we were, but it must be devistating for a child to see that happen.

I am still a little rattled. They could have just as easy come down on top of us. Some of their manuvers were right over us.


700m is quite high for a display flypast, however 100’ is very very low to be rolling. Altitude is difficult to judge from the ground.

I was at the MCAS El Toro Airshow several years ago. The commander of Air Wing 3 (I think – I’m not really up on USMC unit designations) was flying a routine in an F/A-18. He pulled up into a loop. But instead of a smooth curve, he made a rather sharp ‘corner’. I thought to myself that he was going to do a square loop. He lost a lot of energy in the climb. When he pulled inverted over the top, I saw the aircraft mush. He continued over and headed vertically toward the ground. He pulled out at the bottom, but not enough. An aircraft weighing 15 tons doesn’t change direction quickly. He hit the ground with his nose in the air and his burners on. When the tail hit, the nose slammed down hard. The pilot survived, but suffered career-ending injuries.

A year or two later I was at MCAS El Toro again when a civilian performer was killed in the crash of his MiG-15.

That is no longer permitted in US airshows. since a 1988 collision by the Italian Frecce Tricolori at Ramstein, Germany killed 70 spectators.

I’m sorry too you had to see that crash.

One of my close friends is in the airshow buisness.link Through him I’ve met a number of airshow performers. A couple of them are no longer around. About once every six months or so I’ll have a doozy of a nightmare where I witness a crash. Most nightmares I’m sort of detached from…some part of my mind knows that I am only dreaming…stuff doesn’t quite happen like IRL or something. These airshow crash nightmares ALWAYS seem 100% reality, though, and I’m seldom able to sleep afterward.

Still, they are only bad dreams. Sorry you had to experience this.

I wondered if you were at Osan AFB, then I read the link and saw it was Suwon. I visited Suwon. the city, while stationed in Korea. It had(has?) this wonderful cultural park, where one can learn about the history of the country, it’s food, games, architecture, the arts, and so on.

I was stationed at Camp Humphries, and the airstrip where the helicopters landed was close enough to rattle the windows(sometimes) in my barracks.

Sorry you had to see the accident.