Groom's SU-31 plunges into waters off Fort Lauderdale
Ian Groom, a very well
known and respected air show performer, died today after his
aircraft crashed into the waters of the Atlantic off Fort
Lauderdale's shores during a practice session.
A Coast Guard boat quickly recovered him and rushed
him to shore, but he was reported dead shortly after he
was brought in.
Groom was practicing his routine over State Road A1A around 2
PM Friday when it went straight down into the water.
According to the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, local resident
Stewart Barcalow witnessed the crash from a sailboat: "It was one
of the stunt planes doing a stall procedure. It would do a turn,
spin around and let out a little puff of smoke. He was dropping
straight down. At the beginning it looked controlled. Even at the
very end it did. We just expected him to pull out, but he didn't.
There was a splash and that was it."
The aircraft sank immediately.
Groom was practicing for the McDonald's Air & Sea Show,
which takes place on Saturday. The show features the Blue
Angels and Canadian Snowbirds, and attendance is said to draw a
large number of spectators to the beach each year. The airshow's
spokeswoman, Elaine Fitzgerald, stated that the show will continue
"Ian was an air show star and one of our business's most
consistent performers," said John Cudahy, president of the
International Council of Air Shows. "His accident is both a
tragedy for the air show community and a stark reminder that, even
when performed by the very best in our business, air show
aerobatics can be very unforgiving."
According to a bio
published on the National Park Service web site, Ian Groom was born
to British parents in South Africa, and was inspired to fly at age
7 after a ride in a Tiger Moth with his uncle. After serving in the
Scottish Regiment in the South African military, Groom attended
college and graduate school in the United States. He
then began a career in investment banking.
At age 39, Groom began flying in aerobatic competitions and air
shows. Over time, he climbed to the pinnacle of his sport, becoming
nationally and internationally acclaimed as an accomplished airshow
pilot. Millions of spectators witness Groom’s end-over-end
tumbles, double-tail slides, multiple snap rolls, and departures
and recoveries from controlled flight. Groom holds the world record
for completing 57 snap rolls in 26 seconds in his Russian-built
In the past couple of years, Groom had cut back his air show
appearances in order to devote himself to training the men and
women of Immigration Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.), previously the
U.S. Customs Service.
Groom was quoted as saying that "America has been very
good to me and my family, and this [training] is a way that I can
pay America back."