Valdosta Daily Times

Top News

June 23, 2013

Wing walker, pilot die in crash at Ohio air show

CINCINNATI — A plane carrying a wing walker crashed at an air show and exploded into flames Saturday, killing the pilot and stunt walker, authorities said.

The crash of the 450 HP Stearman happened at around 12:45 p.m. at the Vectren Air Show near Dayton in front of thousands of horrified spectators. No one else was hurt.

A video posted on WHIO-TV shows the plane turn upside-down as the performer sits on top of the wing. The plane then tilts and crashes to the ground, erupting into flames as spectators screamed.

Ian Hoyt, an aviation photographer and licensed pilot from Findlay, was at the show with his girlfriend. He told The Associated Press he was taking photos as the plane passed by and had just raised his camera to take another shot.

“Then I realized they were too low and too slow. And before I knew it, they hit the ground,” he said.

He couldn’t tell exactly what happened, but it appeared that the plane stalled and didn’t have enough air speed, he said. He credited the pilot for steering clear of spectators and potentially saving lives.

“Had he drifted more, I don’t know what would have happened,” Hoyt said. He said he had been excited to see the show because he’d never seen the scheduled performer — wing walker Jane Wicker — in action.

On the video, the announcer narrates as the plane glides through the sky and rolls over while the stuntwoman perches on a wing.

“Now she’s still on that far side. Keep an eye on Jane. Keep an eye on Charlie. Watch this! Jane Wicker, sitting on top of the world,” the announcer said, right before the plane makes a quick turn and nosedive.

Federal records show that biplane was registered to Wicker, who lived in Loudon, Va. A man who answered the phone at a number listed for Wicker on her website said he had no comment and hung up.

One of the pilots listed on Wicker’s website was named Charlie Schwenker. A post on Jane Wicker Airshows’ Facebook page announced the deaths of Wicker and Schwenker and asked for prayers for their families.

A message left at a phone listing for Charles Schwenker in Oakton, Va., wasn’t immediately returned.

Dayton International Airport spokeswoman Linda Hughes and Ohio State Highway Patrol Lt. Anne Ralston confirmed that a pilot and stunt walker had died but declined to give their names. The air show also declined to release their identities.

The show was canceled for the rest of the day, but organizers said events would resume Sunday and follow the previous schedule and normal operations. The National Transportation Safety Board said it is investigating the crash.

Another spectator, Shawn Warwick of New Knoxville, told the Dayton Daily News that he was watching the flight through binoculars.

“I noticed it was upside-down really close to the ground. She was sitting on the bottom of the plane,” he said. “I saw it just go right into the ground and explode.”

Thanh Tran, of Fairfield, said he could see a look of concern on the wing walker’s face just before the plane went down.

“She looked very scared,” he said. “Then the airplane crashed on the ground. After that, it was terrible, man ... very terrible.”

Wicker’s website says she responded to a classified ad from the Flying Circus Airshow in Bealeton, Va., in 1990, for a wing-walking position, thinking it would be fun. She was a contract employee who worked as a Federal Aviation Administration budget analyst, the FAA said.

She told WDTN-TV in an interview this week that her signature move was hanging underneath the plane’s wing by her feet and sitting on the bottom of the airplane while it’s upside-down.

“I’m never nervous or scared because I know if I do everything as I usually do, everything’s going to be just fine,” she told the station.

Wicker wrote on her website that she had never had any close calls.

“What you see us do out there is after an enormous amount of practice and fine tuning, not to mention the airplane goes through microscopic care. It is a managed risk and that is what keeps us alive,” she wrote.

In 2011, wing walker Todd Green fell 200 feet to his death at an air show in Michigan while performing a stunt in which he grabbed the skid of a helicopter.

In 2007, veteran stunt pilot Jim LeRoy was killed at the Dayton show when his biplane slammed into the runway while performing loop-to-loops and caught fire.

Organizers were presenting a trimmed-down show and expected smaller crowds at Dayton after the Air Force Thunderbirds and other military participants pulled out this year because of federal budget cuts.

The air show, one of the country’s oldest, usually draws around 70,000 people and has a $3.2 million impact on the local economy. Without military aircraft and support, the show expected attendance to be off 30 percent or more.

1
Text Only
Top News
  • Today in History

    In 1800, Congress approved a bill establishing the Library of Congress.

    April 24, 2014

  • Michigan affirmative ban is OK, Supreme Court says

    A state’s voters are free to outlaw the use of race as a factor in college admissions, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in a blow to affirmative action that also laid bare tensions among the justices about a continuing need for programs that address racial inequality in America.

    April 23, 2014

  • ‘Piles and piles’ of bodies in South Sudan slaughter

    Gunmen who targeted both children and the elderly left “piles and piles” of bodies — many of those in a mosque — in a provincial capital in South Sudan, the U.N.’s top humanitarian official in the country said Tuesday.

    April 23, 2014

  • Obama_Stew.jpg Obama views mudslide scene

    Swooping over a terrain of great sadness and death, President Barack Obama took an aerial tour Tuesday of the place where more than three dozen people perished in a mudslide last month, then mourned privately with those who lost loved ones in the destruction.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Wall Street_Stew.jpg Earnings and corporate deals lift U.S. stocks

    Corporate deals and some solid earnings reports propelled the stock market to its sixth straight gain Tuesday.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Economy College Gradu_Stew.jpg Job market for college grads better but still weak

    With college commencement ceremonies nearing, the government is offering a modest dose of good news for graduating seniors: The job market is brightening for new grads — a bit.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Supreme Court TV On t_Stew.jpg Internet TV case: Justices skeptical, concerned

    Grappling with fast-changing technology, Supreme Court justices debated Tuesday whether they can protect the copyrights of TV broadcasters to the shows they send out without strangling innovations in the use of the internet.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Today in History

    In 1791, the 15th president of the United States, James Buchanan, was born in Franklin County, Pa.

    April 23, 2014

  • Stowaway teen forces review of airport security

    A 15-year-old boy found his way onto an airport’s tarmac and climbed into a jetliner’s wheel well, then flew for five freezing hours to Hawaii — a misadventure that forced authorities to take a hard look at the security system that protects the nation’s airline fleet.

    April 22, 2014

  • South Korea Ship Sink_Rich copy.jpg Death count in ferry sinking tops 100

    One by one, coast guard officers carried the newly arrived bodies covered in white sheets from a boat to a tent on the dock of this island, the first step in identifying a sharply rising number of corpses from a South Korean ferry that sank nearly a week ago.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

Top News
Poll

Given the amount of rain recently, what's your favorite “rain” song?

Singing in the Rain
Purple Rain
Have You Ever Seen the Rain?
November Rain
Rainy Night in Georgia
Other
     View Results