A preliminary report on the cause of a deadly Iowa air show accident that killed a Frisco pilot, also a life member of Tyler's Historic Aviation Memorial Museum, is set for release next week, federal investigators said.
“We will be releasing a preliminary, factual report within 10 business days of the accident,” federal press agent Eric Weiss said. “Generally, a full investigation can take between 12 and 18 months to determine the probable cause of an accident.”
A memorial service for Smith is set for 10 a.m. today at Turrentine-Jackson-Morrow Chapel, 2525 Central Expressway North, in Allen.
The veteran pilot-philanthropist is survived by his parents, relatives and a host of friends.
The L-39 aircraft, developed in Czechoslovakia, saw duty in the 1960s for light attack missions and pilot training, records show.
Smith owned one of those aircraft as well as several other vintage planes, including two Russian MiG-17 fighter jets stored in a private hangar at the aviation museum.
In a June interview, Smith talked about his passion for old war planes and the seriousness of his pastime.
“We're here, for a short period of time, to take care of a significant piece of history,” he said. “I'm just a caretaker for a piece of history.”
It's unclear whether Smith's plan suffered a mechanical malfunction or something else happened during the flight.
Those details and others will be sorted out over the next weeks and months and included in the final accident report, officials said.
The men spent hundreds of man hours over the years ensuring the vintage machines were in tip-top condition.
Smith used only the best mechanics, bringing them from as far as Poland and the old Soviet Air Force to work on his aircraft.
Mechanics always were impressed at the clean, pristine condition of the aircraft, Ball said, adding, “He was meticulous to a fault.”
Smith enjoyed a successful career in software development before retiring to pursue his interest in aviation.
His earlier business ventures included the successful development of software for Texas taxing entities, including cities, school district and counties.
In recent years, the men embarked on a life adventure to reclaim and reunite two Cold War-era Russian MiG-17s, which flew together 18 years in the same enemy squadron.
The men discovered the planes were a single digit apart as they rolled off the production line.
Ball's “Check Six” MiG, built in December 1959, is number 1,611, and Smith's MiG, built in January 1960, is number 1,613.
Only about a dozen fighters are still flying, officials said.
The men flew their sister airplanes publicly in the United States for the first time in July, during the Thunder Over Cedar Creek Air Show.
Smith, at the time of his death, was performing with the Hoppers, a group of private pilots dedicated to educating the public about jet war planes.
Records show Smith also flew for Grace Flight of America, a charitable organization providing free air transportation for medical and humanitarian purposes, according to its website.