1988 Ramstein Airshow

It is after 8575 days that I put this report on line after I have visited the memorial recently. Now I have been at the spot and saw the names on the victims I can put the memory in a safe place in my mind. The 28th of august 1988 began as a bright sunny day, though the end was dark. I want to share the joy of the day up to that last moment. It is cynical that as I put this on line, the numbers are shattered by the number of Covid-19 victims.

The static display

Flying display

Asas de Portugal

Patrouille de France

Frecce Tricolori

The memorial site in 2020

The story

At 15:44 on 28th august 1988 disaster struck as the solo Pony 10 clashed into the formation. Several different video recordings of the accident were taped. They show that the “piercing” aircraft (Pony 10) came in too low and too fast at the crossing point with the other two groups (five aircraft on the left and four on the right) as they completed the heart-shaped figure. Lead pilot Lieutenant Colonel Ivo Nutarelli, flying Pony 10, was unable to correct his altitude or slow his speed, and collided with the leading airplane (Pony 1, piloted by Lt. Col. Mario Naldini) of the left formation “inside” the figure, destroying the plane’s tail section with the front of his aircraft.

Pony 1 then spiralled out of control, hitting the plane on its lower left (Pony 2, piloted by Captain Giorgio Alessio). Lt. Col. Naldini ejected but was killed as he hit the runway before his parachute opened. His plane crashed onto a taxiway near the runway, destroying a medevac helicopter and fatally injuring its pilot, Captain Kim Strader. Pony 2, the third plane involved in the disaster, was severely damaged from the impact with Pony 1, and crashed beside the runway, exploding in a fireball. Its pilot, Captain Alessio, died instantly.

Pony 10, the aircraft that started the crash, continued on a ballistic trajectory across the runway, completely out of control and in flames, its forward section destroyed by the impact with Pony 1. The plane hit the ground ahead of the spectator stands, exploding in a fireball and destroying a police vehicle parked inside the concertina-wire fence that defined the active runway area. The plane continued, cartwheeling for a distance before picking up the three-strand concertina-wire fence, crossing an emergency access road, slamming into the crowd, and hitting a parked ice cream van. The area of the crash, being centered on the flightline and as close to the airshow as civilian spectators could get, had been considered the “best seats in the house”, and was densely packed. The entire incident, from the collision of the first two planes to the crash into the crowd, took less than seven seconds, leaving almost no time for spectators to run away. The low altitude of the maneuver (45 meters above the crowd) also contributed to the short time frame.

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