Permission was granted, and Lathrop made his first pass from west to east. After two more passes were completed, he reversed course. Lathrop initiated a pass from east to west, at a slightly lower speed. His altitude was approximately equal to the height of the control tower. As the aircraft passed the western end of the ramp area, the pilot raised the nose of the XB-51 slightly, and initiated an aileron roll to the right. The roll appeared normal until the aircraft became inverted. At this point, the XB-51 appeared to "dish out" of the roll, striking the ground in a left-wing-low, slightly nose-down attitude. The crash was followed by an explosion and fire, completely destroying the aircraft and killing Major Lathrop. The cause of the accident was attributed to pilot error.