The pilot of a vintage World War II-era plane has died in a crash shortly after takeoff from a Breckenridge airfield.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Lynn Lunsford said the Grumman F8F Bearcat fighter plane took off from Stephens County Airport near Breckinridge just after 2 p.m. Wednesday.
The Texas Department of Public Safety reported that the plane barely made it off the runway before hitting the ground and bursting into flames. The pilot, 77-year-old Howard Pardue, was pronounced dead soon afterward.
No other passengers were on board.
DPS operator Marsha Pruit said Pardue was an avid flier with lots of accomplishments and accolades for flying vintage aircraft. Online records indicate that he is from Breckenridge and Houston.
According to FAA records, the fighter plane was built in 1945 and had a valid certificate.
The attached photo to this story is a photo of Pardue flying his Grumman 8F8 Bearcat fighter during an air show in Reno, Nev., in 2003. The aircraft was designed as a carrier-based fighter plane used during World War II.
Breckenridge is about 60 miles east of Abilene.