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Pilot noticed loss of power before crash of Cold War plane at Michigan show

East German Airforce MiG-23 Flogger no 586 plane  Public Domain
MiG-23 planes, like this one above, were built in the former Soviet Union.

The pilot of a Cold War-era jet noticed it was losing power and decided to eject himself and a crew member before the Soviet fighter plane crashed during a weekend air show in suburban Detroit, an official said Monday.

The pilot, who also owns the plane, had serious injuries but nothing life-threatening, while a second person aboard the MiG-23 had mild injuries after they parachuted to the ground, said John Brannen, senior air safety investigator at the National Transportation Safety Board.

“It’s very fortunate, of course, that nobody on the ground was injured. ... The plane traveled about 500 feet after the initial impact, went through some trees and wound up here next to the apartment building,” Brannen told reporters in Belleville.

The MiG-23, which was built in the former Soviet Union in 1981, crashed Sunday during the Thunder Over Michigan Air Show, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) west of Detroit.

Brannen said the pilot talked to the Federal Aviation Administration about what preceded the crash.

“They had some engine loss-of-power issues and were not able to correct that and elected to eject from the aircraft,” Brannen said.

He said the wreckage would be examined in the months ahead.

“Being a military aircraft — and on top of that a Russian military aircraft — is going to make things a little more difficult. ... I'm not sure what kind of support we'll be able to get,” Brannen said.

Residents who were evacuated from apartments could return home by Tuesday.

Matthew Gerick was astonished when he saw two people eject, a crash and thick black smoke.

“Like, did we just watch that happen?” Gerick told the Detroit Free Press.

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