Air Show Resumes as Planned After Two Die Saturday

Jane Wicker Airshows was based in Front Royal; Facebook post appeals for prayers

By Dan Sewell and Ashley Thomas
|  Monday, Jun 24, 2013  |  Updated 4:17 AM PDT
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Wing Walker & Pilot Killed in Air Show Crash

A wing walker and pilot from Northern Virginia are believed to have been killed when their plane crashed at an air show near Cincinnati Saturday.

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Friends of Wing Walker & Pilot React To Deadly Air Show Crash

People who knew the wing walker and pilot killed at an air show in Dayton, OH reacted to the news of the tragic accident today. Derrick Ward reports.

Wing Walker & Pilot Killed in Air Show Crash

A wing walker and her pilot, both from Northern Virginia, were killed today at an air show crash in Dayton, Ohio.
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An air show in southwestern Ohio reopened with a moment of silence Sunday, a day after a pilot and wing walker died in a horrifying, fiery crash in front of thousands of spectators.

Wing walker Jane Wicker was apparently on the wing of the 450 HP Stearman plane when it crashed into the ground just before 1 p.m., as seen in amateur video from the Vectren Air Show at Dayton International Airport.

Wicker's company, Jane Wicker Airshows, is located in Front Royal, Va., according to the company's Facebook page.

The Facebook page announced her death and the death of a pilot, Charlie Schwenker. The post asked for prayers for their families.

Wicker lived in Bristow, Va., according to aviation records. A message left at a phone listing for Schwenker in Oakton, Va., wasn't immediately returned.

Wicker was a contract employee who worked as a Federal Aviation Administration budget analyst, the FAA said. She was the mother of two, and engaged to be married.

A video posted on WHIO-TV shows the plane turn upside-down as Wicker 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.

"I'm still shaking,'' Hoyt said. He said he had been excited to see the show because he'd never seen 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. A man who answered the phone at a number listed for Wicker on her website said he had no comment and hung up.

The show was canceled for the rest of the day, but events resumed Sunday. 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.''

Than 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 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 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.

___

Thomas reported from Philadelphia. Associated Press writers Kerry Lester in Chicago and Randy Pennell in Philadelphia contributed to this report.

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