According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the airplane was an Interavia E-3 that took off from the Long Beach Airport with just the pilot on board.
This reporter, who heard the crash from his house at about 1:20 p.m., heard the plane's engine revving louder and harsher than typically associated with the descent arc of a loop. A witness told KNBC-TV that he thought he saw a parachute trailing behind the plane, but it was tangled and not deployed.
The plane crashed about 400 yards offshore in about 60 feet of water. A civilian boat arrived on the scene within two minutes, and a lifeguard stationed at Western Avenue beach paddled out to the crash site as well. At least four Coast Guard and Los Angeles Fire Department vessels arrived on scene within 15 minutes. Skies were clear, with the occasional light wind gust at sea level.
Hermance was a frequent competitor in International Aerobatics Club competitions. The Interavia E-3 is specially designed to perform elaborate stunts at high speeds. Hermance often flew off the San Pedro coast to practice aerobatics maneuvers, which included loops, spirals and stalls.
The National Transportation Safety Board was expected to investigate the crash.
Hermance joined Toyota in 1991 after a 26-year career at General Motors. At GM, he held jobs in the automaker's vehicle emissions and durability testing departments.
Based at the Toyota Technical Center in Gardena, Calif., Hermance's first job for Toyota was evaluating car engines for North America. In 1992, he was put in charge of engine and drivetrain calibrations for North America.
Later in his Toyota career, Hermance became the automaker's point man for ongoing alternative fuel discussions with Congress, the media and the California Air Resources Board.
According to his biography on Toyota's media Web site, Hermance is survived by his wife, Mary, and two grown children.
You may e-mail Mark Rechtin at [email protected]