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Pilot of World War I replica airplane killed in San Luis Obispo County crash

The pilot of a World War I replica airplane was killed when he crashed into a field in Paso Robles on Sunday morning, authorities said.

The single engine biplane is believed to have taken off from a private airstrip before crashing a few miles away in the 8300 block of Highway 46 East about 9:10 a.m., according to a statement from the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office.

The sheriff’s office did not release the name of the pilot, an adult male, pending notification of his family. No one else was on board the aircraft.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the cause of the crash.

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A sheriff’s deputy inspects the wreckage of a World War I replica airplane that crashed in Paso Robl
A sheriff’s deputy inspects the wreckage of a World War I replica airplane that crashed in Paso Robles, killing its pilot.
(San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office)

Photos of the crash site provided by the sheriff’s office show a grassy field and the wreckage of a small plane with wings painted in a camouflage pattern.

Officials from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration were on their way to the scene.

According to an August 2014 article in Smithsonian’s Air & Space Magazine, there were at most 150 airworthy World War I-type planes in the world at the time. Original airplanes are rare; most are replicas made from metal rather than wood, the article said.

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Robert Baslee builds World War I replica airplanes at his workshop in Holden, Mo. He told the magazine that he has built more than 30 of the planes, and his customers have assembled an additional 50 or 60 from kits.

The origin of the airplane that crashed is unknown.

On the website for his company, Airdrome Airplanes, Baslee wrote that a replica can be made from one of his kits in about 300 to 400 hours, using only basic hand tools.

“Flying an aircraft constructed with your own hands will provide endless hours of fun and excitement,” Baslee wrote. “Imagine yourself in the cockpit, donned in a leather flying helmet, goggles and a while silk scarf, the horizon backdropped by the warm glow of the setting sun. An experience that very few people will ever know.”


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