Two die in Agusta military experimental plane explosion

Pilot flew aircraft away from inhabited area

(ANSA) - Turin, October 30 - A tiltroter experimental military aircraft exploded in mid-air Friday and plunged to the ground in the northern province of Vercelli, killing two test pilots, the Agusta Westland aviation company said.
    The futuristic AW609 tiltroter prototype, described by the company's website as a "game changer," combines the vertical take-off of helicopters with the fixed and rotary wing flight of aeroplanes.
    Witnesses said they heard a loud bang followed by falling wreckage.
    "It was flying low over houses and was in flames," a group of students who witnessed the accident were quoted as saying.
    "The pilot was very skilful to fly it to a corn field. If it had fallen onto the city it would have been a massacre".
    "I saw a ball of fire and a very strong explosion and that strange aeroplane falling".
    Investigating magistrates in Vercelli opened an inquiry into possible negligence causing the accident.
    Judge Ezio Basso heading the probe said autopsies would be carried out on the pilot's bodies.
    The aircraft had taken off from Vergirate in Varese province where Agusta has its headquarters, judicial sources said.