OSHKOSH, Wis. – The final day of a Wisconsin airshow was marred by the death of a passenger in a plane that was struck from behind while traveling along a taxiway before departing.

The identity of the victim at EAA AirVenture was not released Sunday pending notification of relatives.

A passenger in a Van’s RV single-engine twin-seat plane was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident that happened about 12:15 p.m. Sunday alongside the north-south runway of Wittman Regional Airport in front of the control tower.

The small plane, which is registered to a Canadian owner, was struck from behind by a larger aircraft, a World War II era Navy Grumman TBM Avenger, the same aircraft flown by President George H.W. Bush in the Pacific.

The Avenger plowed into the rear of the smaller plane, tearing up the rear propeller and part of the cockpit. Van’s RVs are homebuilt kit planes and with more than 3,000 flying, it’s the largest kit-built company in the world.

“It’s always a very difficult situation when there’s a loss of life,” EAA president and AirVenture chairman Tom Poberezny said.

“The incident doesn’t change the success of the event … but we grieve for the loss of life.”

A Washington state couple was killed July 23, a day before the aviation convention started, when their plane crashed at the end of one of the runways at the Oshkosh airport while trying to land.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating both fatal crashes.

Neither the pilot of the Van’s RV nor the two people traveling in the Avenger were injured, Poberezny said.

The accident happened as a line of planes moved along the taxiway to wait their turn to take off. Within minutes several yellow fire trucks and squad cars were at the scene as rescuers held up a large red cloth to shield spectators from the damaged planes.

The seven-day fly-in and aviation convention ended Sunday.

Big attendance

Despite the fatal crashes on the AirVenture grounds, Poberezny said opening day on July 24 was the largest in terms of attendance in at least the last two decades. He attributed that in part to a free Beach Boys concert that day and because many people decided to come early.

Later in the week, attendance flattened out, Poberezny said, which may have been because of hot and humid weather.

“What we found is people came early and they left early,” Poberezny said.

Overall attendance figures will be released this week.

Attendance will be less than last year, however, because the 2005 event featured visits by SpaceShipOne, the first civilian spacecraft, and Global Flyer, which was flown around the world on one tank of gas. Both aircraft attracted hordes of visitors.

Another factor this year was fuel prices both for motor vehicles and aircraft.

“There’s no question when you’re looking at $3.20 a gallon gas for vehicles and $5 a gallon for planes that it’ll have an effect on attendance,” Poberezny said.

Looking ahead to next year, Poberezny said the Blue Angels might expand their presence and the F-22 Raptor could spend more time demonstrating the military aircraft’s flying power. There’s also the possibility that the Airbus A380, the world’s largest civilian airliner, could make an appearance at AirVenture.

Poberezny said changes will be made to the AirVenture grounds, though he declined to release details until later this year.

“We are bursting at the seams. We have a waiting list of exhibitors,” Poberezny said. “There will be expansion but it will also be user friendly.”

(c) 2006, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Visit JSOnline, the Journal Sentinel’s World Wide Web site, at http://www.jsonline.com/

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-07-30-06 2043EDT

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