LONDON -- A vintage World War II fighter bomber, the world's last flying model of the plane used in Britain's early defense against the Nazis, crashed at an air show only two weeks after restoration, authorities said.
The three crewmen were not seriously injured in the crash of the Bristol Blenheim aircraft Sunday before hundreds of spectators, but aviation officials said the plane was too severely damaged to ever fly again. Two crew members were hospitalized overnight.
'It's a big historical loss,' one aviation enthusiast said Monday.
Authorities are investigating the cause of the crash 16 miles outside of London during the annual air show at the Denham Aerodrome.
A spokesman for the British Aerial Museum, which restored the aircraft, said apparently one of the engines failed on the plane, painstakingly rebuilt over 12 years from two rusting Blenheims discovered in a Canadian field.
The plane failed to pull up from a 'touch-and-go' landing maneuver, ripped through a fence at the end of the runway and ploughed to a rest on the fairway of the 18th hole on a nearby golf course as hundreds of spectators watched.
Fuel began to pour from the twin-engine plane and firemen, who rushed to the scene, sprayed foam on the wreckage as rescuers freed the pilot, trapped in the cockpit for 20 minutes.
The Blenheim was restored from parts taken from two rusting hulks found in a Manitoba field. The Canadian planes had not seen combat during World War II.
Their parts were shipped to Britain by the British Aerial Museum and meticulously pieced together before the operational plane was unveiled two weeks ago at the Biggin Hill International Air Fair, one of the largest general aviation shows in western Europe.
Five former Blenheim crew members were brought to the air show to watch the world's first Blenheim flight in 40 years and one close to tears, exclaimed, 'I never thought I would see one again.'
Britain, caught off guard by Hitler's declaration of war, used Blenheims -- already obsolete and outgunned by the faster Nazi Luftwaffe planes when the war started -- until more modern B-17 and Lancaster bombers could be built.
Their obsolescence was reflected in the crippling losses suffered by Blenheim crews. On average they would surive only three weeks of airborne missions.
The restorers of the ill-fated Bleinheim had planned to put it on display at air shows throughout Europe but it was making only its second public appearance when it crashed during the weekend.