This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.
On April 4, 2012, at 1410 central daylight time, a Grumman model F8F-1 airplane, N14HP, was substantially damaged when it collided with terrain during a low-altitude aerobatic maneuver performed shortly after takeoff from Stephens County Airport (KBKD), Breckenridge, Texas. A postimpact fire ensued. The commercial pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by Breckenridge Aviation Museum, under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 without a flight plan. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal flight that was originating at the time of the accident.
A witness to the accident reported that he was in his airplane preparing to depart when the accident airplane was taxiing toward runway 17. He told the accident pilot, via radio, that he wanted to watch the accident airplane takeoff ahead of him. The accident pilot reportedly announced over the radio that he was going to perform a Half Cuban Eight aerobatic maneuver after takeoff and then overfly the runway in the opposite direction. The witness stated that after liftoff the accident airplane climbed 100 to 200 feet in a shallow climb before it pitched-up into a near vertical climb. The airplane continued the climb in an inside loop before leveling out, inverted, about 500 feet above the runway heading the opposite direction of the takeoff. The witness then saw the airplane's wings roll suddenly before the airplane entered a near vertical descent. The witness described the final portion of the aerobatic maneuver as a split-S maneuver, or a descending half loop, from which the airplane was unable to recover before colliding with terrain on a southeasterly heading. The witness stated that there was an explosion when the airplane collided with terrain and that a postimpact fire ensued.
At 1415, the airport's automated surface observing system reported the following weather conditions: wind 280 degrees at 8 knots; clear skies; visibility 10 miles; temperature 21 degrees Celsius; dew point 07 degrees Celsius; altimeter setting 29.88 inches of mercury.