At the 25th annual Thunder Over Michigan Air Show on Sunday, the audience looked on as two pilots ejected from a MiG-23 and crashed into a nearby parking lot. The pilots landed in Belleville Lake and the plane crashed into the parking lot of a nearby apartment complex, striking unoccupied vehicles and catching fire. The pilots were taken to the hospital as a precaution but suffered no serious injuries and no one on the ground was hurt.
Onlookers watched as the jet flew overhead and witnessed what appeared to be a small explosion followed by another as the two occupants parachuted out into the lake below. The sky was clear and the guests that had been watching the MiG-23 fly over just moments before could now see dark plumes of smoke billowing in the sky. The Soviet-era jet was flying over the lake when an unknown issue occurred, with videos showing two small explosions and subsequent pilot ejection and plane cash. The plane veered off behind trees, landing on unoccupied cars in an apartment complex and a post-crash fire engulfed the area in smoke and flames.
Attendees were celebrating the 25th-anniversary edition of the air show at Willow Run Airport over the weekend. The show lineup included other warbirds like a P-51 Mustang and a F-22 Raptor. The crash occurred around 4 p.m. just an hour before the show was set to end. Fortunately, the pilots escaped with only minor injuries and no one at the air show and apartment complex was hurt. The FAA and NTSB are investigating the crash and a possible cause is not known at this time.
Airshows draw in crowds in part due to the aircraft that fly in the show and also due to the impressive aerobatics and maneuverability the pilots can show to the audience below. Shows like Thunder Over Michigan show off impressive warbirds or vintage aircraft, like the MiG-23 and other aircraft scheduled for the weekend shows. Airshow season is well underway, with shows and events taking place across the country as the warmer months continue. Unfortunately, airshows are no exception to the dangers of flying.RELATED STORIES:New details in midair collision on AirVenture grounds in NTSB prelimVictims identified in midair crash between B-17, P-63 at Wings Over Dallas airshow, killing 6NTSB Preliminary report released on deadly Reno air show crash
EAA AirVenture took place at the end of July, bringing in over 670,000 guests and over 10,000 aircraft. Many attendees fly to the Wittman Regional Airport (OSH) and the surrounding region for the event. Tragically, four people died and two others were hospitalized after crashes on or around the grounds in Oshkosh. A collision between a helicopter and a gyroplane near the Ultralight/Homebuilt Rotorcraft runway destroyed the copter and killed both occupants, seriously injuring those in the gyroplane. First responders were called to a nearby crash in Lake Winnebago that same morning after a T-6 Texan crashed, killing both occupants. Neither crash occurred during an airshow at AirVenture.
In November, a Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress and Bell P-63F Kingcobra collided in midair, killing all six on board at the Wings Over Dallas airshow. Onlookers watched in horror as the two warbirds collided overhead, crashing into the ground and catching fire. In September an Aerovodochody L29-Delphin crashed on the third lap out of six in a race at an airshow in Reno, killing the pilot.Unbelievable that this happened today, literally, right down the road from me. Willow Run Airport, Ypsilanti, MI "Thunder Over Michigan" airshow. It's an absolute MIRACLE that no one on the ground was killed or injured and both pilots ejected safely! #Thunderovermichigan pic.twitter.com/NBuDjfI7AI— Jody Carrithers (@jodyjaney42) August 14, 2023
Airshows are often an aviator's first interaction with the world of aviation, introducing a young pilot-to-be to a lifelong love for planes and flying. Planes flying in close proximity and/or over crowds is a risk for the pilots as much as it is a thrill for the crowd. The Thunder Over Michigan crash, fortunately, did not have a more tragic ending, but many in the audience will likely not forget the harrowing experience.