mb 339


Ramstein air show disaster

On Sunday, 28 August 1988 during the Flugtag ‘88 airshow at the US Ramstein Air Base near the city of Kaiserslautern, West Germany, aircraft of the Italian Air Force display team, the Frecce Tricolori, collided during their display, crashing to the ground in front of a crowd of about 300,000 people. There were 70 fatalities (67 spectators and 3 pilots); 346 spectators sustained serious injuries in the resulting explosion and fire, and hundreds more had minor injuries.

Ten Aermacchi MB-339 PAN jets from the Frecce Tricolori, were performing their “pierced heart” formation. In this formation, two groups of aircraft create a heart shape in front of the audience along the runway. In the completion of the lower tip of the heart, the two groups pass each other parallel to the runway. The heart is then pierced, in the direction of the audience, by a lone aircraft.

The mid-air collision took place as the two heart-forming groups passed each other and the heart-piercing aircraft hit them. The piercing aircraft (1) crashed onto the runway and consequently both the fuselage and resulting fireball of aviation fuel tumbled into the spectator area, hitting the crowd and coming to rest against a refrigerated trailer being used to dispense ice cream to the various vendor booths in the area.

At the same time, one of the damaged aircraft from the heart-forming group crashed into the emergency medical evacuation UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter (2), the pilot of this aircraft ejected, but was killed as he hit the runway before his parachute opened. The third aircraft (3) disintegrated in the collision and parts of it were strewn along the runway.

At the time it was the deadliest air show accident in the world, until it overtaken in 2002 by the Sknyliv air show disaster.