A Cornelius business executive died Saturday after the 1950s-era plane he was piloting crashed and erupted in flames at a West Virginia air show.
John Mangan, 54, was a passionate flyer and Air Force veteran who always put safety first, his son said Sunday. Mangan was killed Saturday when the T-28 he was flying crashed and burned as hundreds of horrified spectators looked on.
It was the second deadly air show crash in a 24-hour period. A day earlier, a plane crashed during an air race in Reno, Nev., killing the pilot and eight others and sending dozens to the hospital.
"He was a great pilot and a wonderful parent and husband," Sean Mangan, 27, said of his 54-year-old father. His father taught him to fly, he said, and always stressed attention to detail, preparation and safety.
"He was the best pilot I know."
Mangan was known as "Jack" and, among fliers and enthusiasts also by the nickname "Flash."
Mangan was a partner at Restaurant Management Group, which owns and operates dozens of Hardee's and Little Caesars restaurants across several states.
"Jack was a beloved leader in our company, and his untimely passing is a blow to us all," RMG said in a statement.
Saturday's crash happened during a performance by the Cincinnati-based Trojan Horsemen demonstration team at the Thunder over the Blue Ridge air show in Martinsburg, W. Va. The team performs a patriotic routine that pays tribute to the U.S. military.
The crash followed a stunt in which two T-28s were flying belly-to-belly, reported The Martinsburg (W.Va.) Journal-News. After the aircraft split, one plane faltered and dove into the ground, where it burst into flames.
No other injuries were reported, and the remainder of the air show was canceled.
Preliminary report expected
A National Transportation Safety Board investigator was on the scene Sunday and was expected to conduct a briefing later in the day. The investigator did not immediately return calls from The Associated Press.
A preliminary accident report was expected within 3-5 working days, said Jim Peters, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA was assisting the NTSB by checking Mangan's pilot records, medical certification and any documents related to the T-28.
A member of the team contacted Saturday declined to comment.
Before Saturday's show, the crash in Nevada was acknowledged on the Trojan Horsemen's Facebook page: "Our hearts are hurting for all those involved at Reno, but (now) is the time for us to focus on our job. We are professionals and we take safety very seriously. Thunder over the Blue Ridge will go on today entertaining thousand of spectators SAFELY."
A decorated pilot
As an Air Force fighter pilot, Jack Mangan flew F-4s and F-15s and was an instructor and mission commander during Operation Desert Storm, said Rick Rountree, a spokesman for RMG. He received three meritorious service medals and was fighter pilot of the year in 1984, he said.
The North American T-28 Trojan that he flew in the air show was a basic trainer that was used by the Navy, including for carrier operation, according to The Boeing Co.'s website. Its first flight was in 1949 and it was designed to transition pilots to jet aircraft.
"This was his hobby, to fly these T-28s," Rountree said. "He loved doing it, and he actually flew a lot in his job."
Mangan and RMG also supported The Patriot Foundation, created to provide support to the families of soldiers in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg.
"He was very positive and upbeat and one of those natural born leaders," Rountree said. "He was clearly the guy who RMG on a day-to-day basis, operationally, and he was an extremely popular leader with his employees."
'A labor of love'
Mangan and his wife, Kathy, celebrated their 31st anniversary last month. They raised three children.
Mangan, originally from Boston, said in a 2006 interview with the Observer that he had frequented North Carolina while in the military and said he and his wife were attracted by the lake area's quality of life. They moved to the area in 1993.
In the 2006 interview, Mangan said he flew a Cessna from Concord Regional Airport each week for work.
Mangan said of getting behind the controls of his plane: "It's a labor of love."
Published in Charlotte Observer from Sept. 19, 2011 to Sept. 29, 2012