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Sat, May 01, 2004

Aero-News Alert: Airshow Performer Ian Groom Lost in Crash

Groom's SU-31 plunges into waters off Fort Lauderdale during practice

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 as planned.

"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 Sukhoi SU-31.

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."



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