Pilot Killed In Jump From Burning Airplane

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Pilot Jerry Parker, 63, of Livermore, Calif., wasn't wearing a parachute when his homebuilt Loehle Mustang caught fire shortly after takeoff on Saturday afternoon, but he apparently jumped from the cockpit at about 1,000 feet, and was killed. The burning airplane hit the ground nearby and was destroyed. Parker had been working on the airplane for about four years and had recently begun test flights, according to KTVU.com. "He's been flying the past few weeks, over the house, around Livermore, and was saying the plane is about ready," said Tom Gorman, a longtime friend of the pilot. "He was thinking of taking it down south to visit his daughter."

The Loehle Mustang is a three-quarter-scale P-51 lookalike. It's "docile to fly," with handling similar to a J-3 Cub, according to the Loehle website. Parker was a mechanical engineer by profession, and had spent more than a decade in Iraq and Afghanistan, as a military contractor. He bought the airplane kit while he was overseas, according to KTVU.