NEW DELHI, India (AP) _ An air force jet plunged to earth and exploded during an air show after the pilot apparently misjudged his altitude and tried an extra maneuver. The flier was killed and dozens of spectators were injured fleeing the fiery wreckage.

The crash Sunday was the 15th this year for the Indian air force, which has the world's highest accident rate, defense statistics show.

The Mirage 2000 fighter jet crashed at Indian Air Force Day celebrations. The pilot, Ramesh Bakshi, the 39-year-old commander of the Mirage squadron, was killed instantly.

Dozens of panicked spectators suffered sprained ankles, bruises or broken bones while running toward or away from the giant fireball.

Four people were hospitalized in serious condition with burns over 50 percent of their bodies, military officials said.

The silver delta-winged aircraft was completing a stunt known as a ''Vertical Charlie,'' the finale of a 20-minute display of the air force's supersonic fighters, transport and training aircraft.

Air Marshal N.C. Suri, vice chief of the air staff, said Bakshi was only scheduled to perform three rolls but instead attempted a fourth.

Unable to complete the roll and pull out of its rapid descent, the plane hurtled to the ground as 2,000 military and civilian dignitaries and other guests attending the 57th anniversary watched in horror, only 300 yards away.

The plane slammed into the ground and exploded, igniting a huge fireball as the wreckage bounced through fuel tanks on the ground. Chunks of burning debris hit several vehicles in the parking lot of the military section of Palam Airport in western New Delhi.

Suri said the pilot may have miscalculated his height because the sky was hazy. When Bakshi started to pull up, the plane was about 18 feet from the ground, they said.

In 1987-88 alone, officials reported 46 crashes of Indian air force jets, most involving the Soviet-made MiG-21 or MiG-27. Defense officials said that averages 2.4 crashes per 10,000 flying hours.

Neighboring Pakistan had a 1.2 average, Britain 0.8 and the United States 0.65 in the same period, the statistics showed.

The Mirage is capable of flying up to 1,460 mph hour at an altitude of 65,600 feet.