Airshow performer and air race pilot Howard Pardue died on Wednesday when his Grumman F8F Bearcat crashed shortly after takeoff from his home field of Stephens County Airport in Breckenridge, Texas, located about 100 miles west of Dallas. The Bearcat, one of only 15 or so airworthy F8Fs in the world, had just taken off when it crashed and caught fire. Pardue, 77, was pronounced dead at the scene, according to a report in a local newspaper.
A former Marine Corps pilot and instructor, Pardue was a veteran Reno air racer, airshow performer and member of an historical tribute flying team, the Navy Legacy Flight team, which performs formation flights with front line Navy fighters of today. After news of the crash came out, friends of Pardue were effusive in their praise for his flying skill and his character.
Pardue was involved in a crash in 2004 in Texas when the Grumman FMF-2 Wildcat he was flying at an airshow flipped over. Luckily, Pardue suffered only minor injuries in that mishap. In 1999 Pardue’s Bearcat was heavily damaged when a Corsair piloted by another experienced warbird pilot began rolling early in a formation takeoff and collided with the wing of the Bearcat. The Corsair pilot was permanently disabled by the accident; Pardue escaped uninjured.
The NTSB is investigating Wednesday’s tragic crash. Our thoughts here at Flying are with Howard’s family and his many friends throughout the aviation community. We will report more details as they become available.