It happened at about 2 p.m. near Stewart International Airport in New Windsor in Orange County.
Airshow enthusiasts were recording from every possible angle as the small, lightweight experimental plane spiraled through the sky over Stewart International Airport.
It was a breathtaking performance until something went wrong. The plane suddenly shot up and then stalled and dropped from the sky.
WATCH RAW VIDEO OF THE CRASH - VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED
"During one of the maneuvers the tail section actually came apart from the plane and it disintegrated and you could see the tail coming down," said Jim West, of ClassicWarBirds.net.
Still pictures showed the G-202 prop plane just before, and immediately after the tail fell off.
Here's a photo of the scene from NewsCopter 7:
Benjamin Granucci, a photographer taking photos at the time of the crash, described what he saw on Twitter:
Other journalists here with me are saying that part of the tail broke off. #NYAScrash— Benjamin Granucci (@BLGranucci) August 28, 2015
What I saw was the aircraft come in for a dive. As it pulled up, it suddenly crossed the crowd line and spun towards the ground.— Benjamin Granucci (@BLGranucci) August 28, 2015
Granucci took a series of photos that show the progression of the incident. He said the photos show the tail of the plane disconnecting. The photos were taken in succession at 2:07 p.m.:
"The plane immediately looked like it went out of control," West said.
"And he went straight up and he went straight down," said Brian Warren, a witness.
"You saw him kind of just like go over and it looked like he was going to do another maneuver like come back up again, but it just didn't come back up," said Holli Dayton, a witness.
"Just hit the ground and kind of, just exploded," Warren said.
"There was no sound, there was nothing. It was just gone," Dayton said.
State police say the pilot at the controls was an experienced stuntman with a company called Carbon Fiber Airshows.
The experimental plane travels the country with its pilot to perform at airshows like the New York Air Show, set to begin Saturday at Stewart Airport.
Volunteers had been setting up tents for the show as the pilots practiced overhead. The NTSB is now trying to understand what happened.
"Unfortunately I just think it's a tragic accident where it was some type of equipment failure or technical failure that led to this, so I don't know if there's anything from a safety standpoint that could have been done to prevent this," said Captain Brendan Casey, of the New York State Police.
Here's what the FAA said in a statement:
"A Cornell W F/Sahakian JA Jr. Giles G 202 experimental aircraft crashed shortly after it departed from Stewart International Airport in Newburgh, NY at about 2 p.m. today. Check with local authorities on the condition of the pilot, the only person onboard. The pilot of the aircraft was scheduled to participate in an airshow at Stewart Airport this weekend. The FAA will investigate and the NTSB will determine probable cause.
Cornell W F/Sahkian JA Jr is the aircraft manufacturer; the Giles G 202 is the aircraft model."
County officials said practice for the rest of the day was canceled, and that the air show is still planned to carry on as scheduled Saturday and Sunday.