Michigan air show crash being investigated by federal safety officials after pilots eject from MiG-23

The two occupants aboard the Russian-made jet flying during a Michigan air show Sunday were in the middle of a second pass for fans when the pilots detected an engine issue.

Unable to rectify a loss of power issue, both elected to eject from the airplane, a federal safety official said Monday.

"It's very fortunate that nobody on the ground was injured," said John Brannen, a senior air safety engineer with the National Traffic Safety Board said. "In this case, we have a fairly large airplane and the fact that both pilots survived and there were no ground injuries is a very good outcome."

The pilot who is also the plane's owner suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries, while the other occupant had minor injuries. Both landed in a nearby lake before being taken to the hospital. 

The jet that crashed was identified as a MiG-23UB, a Soviet-era plane that was built in 1981. It went down near the end of the Thunder Over Michigan air show at the Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti Charter Township. 

The jet the careened toward the ground and crashed into a field. The wreckage eventually stopped outside a Belleville apartment complex after skidding for 500 feet. While several vehicles were damaged, no one was hurt.

Brannen said a preliminary report of the crash can be expected in 10 days, while a full report could take up to two years to complete. 

He held a press conference about 16 hours after the crash happened. As he spoke, pieces of the airplane could be seen strewn around the parking lot. Vehicles parked in the area were also damaged. 

During those investigations, federal officials typically get assistance from the manufacturer in order to isolate what went wrong. Being an airplane that was built over 40 years ago from a country that isn't on good terms with the U.S., it may be difficult to get insight into the plane.

MORE: Thunder Over Michigan plane crash: What we know about the jet, status of pilots

Most of the on-site work is just documenting the crash, Brannen said, and that federal officials will work to salvage the wreckage before getting a closer look at what happened. The goal is to have it all retrieved within the next few days.

Folks that live in the Waverly on the Lake apartment complex were put up in emergency housing by the Red Cross and will be welcome to return home tomorrow.


Brannen said that altitude, speed, and the type of airline all play into the quick-thinking required of pilots caught in the situation where they may need to abandon the plane.