A highly experienced 61-year-old pilot was killed June 27 when the BD-5J he was flying for classified military radar tests crashed and burned about 1,000 feet west of Ocean City Municipal Airport (OXB) in Maryland.
The little jet has been mimicking cruise missiles for radar calibrations for about five years, often based at Easton, Maryland, and other airports near the Washington, D.C., ADIZ. Its size and speed make it ideal for such tests, said Bob Bishop, president of Aerial Productions International of Marana, Ariz., owners of the plane. The 500-pound BD-5J is only 12 feet long with a wingspan of 17 feet and a speed “around 300 mph,” Bishop said. Its radar profile is similar to those of several foreign cruise missiles.
Charles Lischer of Cameron Park, Calif., was the BD-5J pilot. A well-known airshow performer, he had been in the air for about 20 minutes, flying patterns over the Atlantic Ocean in company with an unidentified military plane prior to the crash, which occurred on final approach to the Ocean City runway. Bishop described the other aircraft as “a military data collection plane.” A succinct military announcement, following the crash, described the mission only as a homeland defense exercise.
According to airport manager George Goodrow, “It looked like he was making a normal landing when he just disappeared in the trees. The fuel tank exploded on impact, and the plane was engulfed by the time we got there.”
Lischer had worked for Aerial Productions since 2001 and had logged more than 300 hours in the BD-5J, according to Bishop, whose company is under contract to the U.S. military.
Two identical BD-5Js arrived at the Ocean City airport on June 24, according to Goodrow. They started the radar tests on the 26th and were scheduled to leave the day of the crash, he said.
“We’re the bad guys in war games,” Bishop said. “Nobody wants to see a real cruise missile fly over his house, so it’s us.”