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Year
1988

Air-show accident burns spectators

An air show involving military jets at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany turns tragic on this day in 1988 when three jets collide in mid-air and fall into the crowd. Sixty-nine of the 100,000 spectators died and hundreds more were injured.

Toward the end of the NATO-sponsored show on August 28, Italy’s Frecce Tricolori team, flying Aermacchi MB 339 jets, began their routine. The team was led by Lieutenant Colonel Ivo Nutallari, who attempted a crossover move in which his plane passed very close to the other team jets. Nutallari miscalculated the daring move and his jet collided with the main group. Three of the jets exploded in mid-air, causing wreckage and jet fuel to rain down on the crowd. The three pilots died instantly, as did approximately 30 spectators. Even more people were seriously injured, many with critical burns. Over the course of the next two months, about 30 other victims died in hospitals because of their extensive burns.

In the aftermath of the disaster, Germany banned public air shows for three years before once again allowing them once stricter safety measures were in place. Now planes must fly a designated distance away from the spectators and maneuvers may not be made in the direction of the crowd.

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