RENO — A California pilot was killed when his biplane stalled shortly after takeoff during a practice run at the Reno National Championship Air Races.
Witnesses said Steve Dari, a business consultant from Lemon Grove, was flying the Rose Peregrine, a white RP-5 with red and blue trimming, when it went down shortly after 5:45 p.m. Tuesday at Stead Airport.
“During takeoff it appears that he had engine problems,” said Mike Houghton, president and chief executive officer of the National Championship Air Races.
“It appeared there was smoke and fire. The engine stalled out. The pilot was dead on impact,” he said.
A pilot who witnessed the crash said the plane developed problems almost immediately.
“Everything looked good, but at less than 100 feet, black smoke started coming out of the plane,” Curtis Weinman, of Campbell, Calif., told the Reno Gazette-Journal.
“I heard mayday, mayday, mayday on the radio. He started diving, made an aggressive descent and disappeared over the horizon.”
Houghton said the plane crashed 25 to 30 yards off a runway.
“It’s a tragic loss,” he said. “Anytime something like this happens it’s like losing one of the family. In air racing, everyone feels like family.”