Beijing: Chinese authorities said on Saturday that a pilot died after an Air Force jet nose-dived and crashed at an air show.
Footage aired by China Central Television showed the jet sputtering and then plunging into a field on Friday outside the northern city of Xi'an as one of the pilots ejected from the cockpit and landed beneath an open parachute.
Only one parachute was seen opening, and the plane, a two-seater JH-7 "Flying Leopard" fighter-bomber, burst into flames upon crashing. The other pilot's seat appeared not to have ejected.
Jin Qiansheng, an official with the Yanliang National Aviation Hi-tech Industrial Base, announced the pilot's death at the airshow on Saturday before a minute of silence was observed, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
The pilot who ejected suffered only minor injuries, but his comrade appeared to have been trapped in the doomed plane, earlier Xinhua reports said, citing witnesses and air show organiser He Liang.
The plane crashed more than a mile (2 kilometres) from the nearest onlookers, and there were no deaths or injuries on the ground.
The crash is being investigated, and it wasn't clear if mechanical problems or pilot error was to blame. The plane is powered by two highly reliable license-built Spey Mk202 engines, and it was considered unlikely that both would have stalled at the same time.
The Chinese-made JH-7 entered service in 2004 and is a mainstay of the country's air force and naval aviation, with more than 100 built.
At least one of the planes crashed previously — during a China-Russian joint exercise in 2009 — killing both pilots.
China rarely releases information about military accidents, but the public nature of the crash and the rapid spread on the Internet of images of it happening made it impossible to keep secret.
First Published: Saturday, October 15, 2011, 11:33