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Early Details Of U.S. Pilot Crash In China

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First reports regarding the fatal crash of a Lancair 320 piloted by U.S. pilot David Riggs while flying in northeastern China for a movie state that he was attempting to "waterski" the aircraft across the surface of a lake, on its wheels, in bad weather. Chinese officials said Wednesday that a substantial portion of the aircraft had been recovered from the lake, as was the body of his 18-year-old translator, but Riggs' body was not immediately found. The flight departed a local airport at approximately 1:40 p.m. local time and the weather at the time "was bad," according to Chinese official Xu Jiuquing, who did not elaborate extensively on weather conditions. The official said only that it was raining and Riggs rejected advice to cancel the flight and instead "insisted on flying."

Riggs had reportedly worked on a movie titled "Top Gun" that may have involved performance of the stunt and was re-creating it for another audience. He had intended to attend the AOPA-China Fly-In 2013, scheduled for Sept. 20-22. The accident is not expected to interrupt the show. A search team sent to the lake where the aircraft crashed was said to have been greeted by poor underwater visibility and low water temperatures that limited the amount of time divers could spend in the water. One early report stated that two seat backs had been found but a seat bottom was missing, leading to speculation that Riggs remained fastened to the seat and was trapped with the wreckage. The accident aircraft was locally built and had been flight tested. At least one report states that Riggs himself had "affirmed that the aircraft was in good condition." At nightfall, Wednesday in China, the search for Riggs's body was expected to continue at daybreak, weather permitting.

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