Capt. Erik “Speedy” Gonsalves, Thunderbird #8, was in command of the jet at the time of the incident. Sgt. Kenneth Cordova, a maintenance crew member, was also on board at the time. The two were on a “familiarization flight” over Dayton while the team was in town to perform at the 2017 Vectren Dayton Airshow.
Upon landing, the jet slid off the runway and into the grass, causing the aircraft to flip.
The report mentions that Gonsalves missed his first landing approach and that water had restricted the view of his head-up display or HUD. This forced him to rely solely on cockpit instruments. On the second approach, the report claims that Gonsalves focused more on the runway than his airspeed, contributing to the crash. The Thunderbird F-16 touched down with only 6,130 feet of runway left. Seven to eight thousand feet of runway is required to land safely on wet pavement. The aircraft exited the runway and came to rest upside down in the grass nearby. It was destroyed in the incident.
An audio recording between Air Traffic Control and Thunderbird 8, obtained by the Dayton Daily News last month, revealed that the pilot was warned of “extreme precipitation” in the area and that ATC told him he was “flying at your own risk.”
In a statement, Air Combat Command spokeswoman Maj. Malinda Singleton said “Capt. Gonsalves is traveling with the team and narrating shows, but he is not medically cleared to fly at this time.”
Nearly everyone in the airshow community lost a friend this weekend. Pilot Vlado Lenoch, along with passenger Bethany Root, was killed when the P-51 Mustang “Baby Duck” crashed near Atchison, Kansas Sunday morning. Vlado had performed at the Amelia Earhart Festival the previous night in Atchison. Bethany was the manager of the airport there, and Vlado was no doubt taking her for a flight before heading home.
Vlado was an airshow and warbird icon, and one of the most prolific pilots here in the Midwest. He flew many types, but was most closely associated with P-51 Mustangs; especially “Moonbeam McSwine”, which he owned for many years. After selling Moonbeam he instead became synonymous with Baby Duck and frequently flew it all across the Midwest. He was also an Aerobatic Competency Evaluator (ACE) for other pilots and one of the few civilian pilots in the US Air Force Heritage Flight program.
Vlado Lenoch of Burr Ridge, Illinois is married with three children. His love of aviation began in 1970 when, at age 17, he learned to fly at Chicago’s Midway Airport. He earned an aeronautical engineering degree from Purdue and a Master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Following college, he was employed at the Boeing Commercial Airplane Company in Seattle as a 747 instructor. From that point, he was employed at two major airlines flying the Boeing 727 and Douglas DC-9 aircraft. Currently, he flies a corporate Citation jet for a private company in Illinois.
Lenoch is a licensed Airline Transport pilot with flight instructor ratings in single and multi-engine aircraft, instruments and gliders. He holds authorization for the B-727, Cessna 525, F-86, A-1, A-37, L-39, T-33, P-40, P-47, P-51, F6F, F4U and T-28 aircraft. Vlado has over 11,000 hours of flight time and has built his own aircraft, a Pitts S-1T biplane, which he competes in at the highest level.
A member since 1997, the year in which the Heritage Flight program was founded, Vlado is one of the most seasoned pilots. He has been a director in the FAST Fighter Formation program since 1990 and an ICAS and EAA Warbird Aerobatic Competency Evaluator since 1995. Vlado is a lifetime member in the Commemorative Air Force, Soaring Society of America and Experimental Aircraft Association. Vlado’s great uncle, Cvitan Galic (of Czech ancestry), was a 39-victory Luftwaffe Fighter Ace in the Me-109 in World War II.
Vlado was also famous for his laid back and friendly attitude. Everyone was his friend, and he was always willing to help us pesky photographers out. We worked with him on many occasions through the years, setting up on board cameras and taking photos of the cockpit. Two of us were standing on Baby Duck’s wing doing just that only two weeks ago – we took a smiling selfie that is almost haunting now. We were starting to look at that footage today, before the news broke. All of us here at AirshowStuff, and so many more like us, will miss Vlado terribly. Our condolences further go out to his family as well as the family of his passenger.
Volumes could be written about Vlado’s kind heart and piloting skill, but we think the best tribute is to simply watch the master pilot work at what he loved. Enjoy the video below, remember the smiles he brought to everyone’s face, and keep ’em flying. Please share your own photos, videos, and memories of Vlado in our forums – we want to see them all as we attempt to process this tremendous loss.
The US Air Force Thunderbirds announced today that they are returning to flying operations this week, and it sounds like they have every intention of performing as scheduled this weekend in Traverse City, MI. The remaining aircraft departed Dayton today to return to their home base of Nellis AFB, and they will fly a practice show there tomorrow. After Traverse City, the team has a weekend off followed by a trip to the UK where they will perform at the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford.
The team canceled their scheduled performances at the 2017 Vectren Dayton Airshow this past weekend after one of their two-seat F-16Ds flipped over onto its back next to the runway on Friday. The pilot, Thunderbird #8 Capt. Erik Gonsalves and passenger Technical Sgt. Kenneth Cordova were trapped in the overturned cockpit for more than an hour as emergency crews carefully attempted to extract them without triggering the powerful ejection seats.
The jet was returning from a familiarization flight nearby when the weather deteriorated. Reportedly, a gust of wind caught the aircraft after it was on the ground and flipped it onto its back in the muddy grass. The incident is still under investigation.
Once freed, both of the crew were taken to a nearby hospital in good condition. Cordova was released but Gonsalves remains in the hospital with reported cuts to his legs. He is expected to fully recover.
We are glad to hear that both of the Thunderbird team members are safe, and that the team will not observe a lengthy stand down. They must feel that the incident was a freak occurrence and that it is safe to continue performing.
AirshowStuff has learned that an F-16 belonging to the USAF Thunderbirds has been involved in an incident at the Dayton Air Show in Dayton, OH.
According to eyewitnesses, the incident occurred after the F-16 landed and was taxiing. The plane went off the runway and is currently in the grass. Law enforcement in the Dayton area are confirming than a Thunderbird jet is “on its top.”
This picture, posted by Dayton Daily News shows emergency crews responding to the incident scene.
The pilot of the jet at the time was Thunderbird #8, Capt. Erik “Speedy” Gonsalves. Tech Sargent Kenneth Cordova was the backseater. The mission was on a familiarization flight for Tech Sargent Cordova.
Both occupants of the plane were transported to the hospital. Thunderbird #1 says that injuries are non-life threatening. Tech Sargent Cordova had no visible injuries and is doing “just fine.” Thunderbird #8 had lacerations and injuries to his leg but is in stable to good condition and doing well.
There was heavy rain and wind in the area at the time of the incident. We’ll post more details on our forums as they become available.
The plane took off around 10:30 am this morning. Weather at the time met the criteria for the flight. He flew an instrument procedure approach to recover to the base. Mishap happened after landing on Runway 6L.
An accident safety board will investigate and the results will be made public at a later time. The Thunderbirds will NOT perform on Saturday at the Dayton Airshow. Sunday’s performance is to be determined.
USAF Thunderbirds were conducting a familiarization flight June 23. There was a mishap upon landing at 12:20 p.m. More info to come.
The US Air Force says that the crash of Thunderbird #6 into a Colorado field earlier this year was caused by a throttle malfunction. The finding was part of the Accident Investigation Board report on the incident, announced today by Air Combat Command. The crash occurred shortly after a flyby of the United States Air Force Academy graduation ceremony in Colorado Springs, CO on June 2nd.
Although speculation has been rampant that the F-16 Fighting Falcon ran out of fuel, ACC has stated that hundreds of pounds of fuel were removed from the wreckage. Instead, the investigation found that an issue with the throttle incorrectly caused the pilot, Major Alex Turner, to shut the engine off rather than setting it to idle power as intended. He was unable to restart the engine due to his low altitude and ejected safely after steering toward an empty field.
According to ACC, “after beginning landing procedures, the pilot inadvertently rotated the throttle, placing it into an engine cut-off position. Normally, this full rotation cannot occur unless a throttle trigger is affirmatively actuated or pressed. However, the throttle trigger was “stuck” in the “pressed” position. The accident investigation board observed debris accumulation in the throttle trigger, combined with wear on the trigger assembly.
Once the engine cut-off occurred, the aircraft immediately lost thrust. The pilot attempted engine restart procedures, but restart was impossible at the low altitude of the aircraft. The pilot safely delayed his ejection until he navigated the aircraft to a grass field.
The aircraft, valued at approximately $29 million, was destroyed. There was no known damage to civilian property. At the time of the accident, the pilot was a current and qualified air demonstration pilot, with more than 1,200 hours flying the F-16 and a total flight time of 1,447 hours. He resumed demonstrations with the team.”
The Thunderbirds were grounded for a little over two weeks following the crash. They returned to aerial demonstrations at the airshow in Ocean City, MD and successfully completed the remainder of their 2016 show season.
The publicly released JAGMAN report lists “pilot error” as the primary cause, stating that Capt. Kuss was too low (3,196 feet) and was flying too fast (184 knots) before entering the Split-S maneuver after takeoff. The maneuver is supposed to be initiated at an altitude of no less than 3,500 feet above the ground and with an optimum airspeed of 125 to 135 knots. No mechanical or maintenance issues were discovered by the investigation.
The report also gives numerous recommendations for ways to learn from the crash and improve safety, such as reviewing and implementing changes to the Blue Angel’s Standard Operation Procedures. The Split-S maneuver will not be performed in 2016 and will be reviewed before the 2017 season to potentially add extra safeguards. More specific training is urged for team members as well, including reviews of when to abort a maneuver.
In the report, Capt. Kuss’ was rightfully recognized for his exceptional Navy career and his passion for showcasing Naval aviation. Vice Admiral Mike Shoemaker, Commander of Naval Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet said “Capt. Kuss represented the best and brightest of Naval Aviation. His loss is devastating and felt across the Naval Aviation Community.” The investigation determined that Capt. Kuss died in the line of duty and not due to misconduct.
In the hours and days following the crash, countless people expressed their sadness over the loss of Blue Angel 6 and shared their stories of how he touched their lives. Capt. Kuss memory will forever live in the lives of the children and people he connected with during his time with the Blue Angels.
The famous Martin Mars water bomber was one of the main attractions at EAA AirVenture this year, but it did not survive the show unscathed. The aircraft, which performed in the Monday, Wednesday, and Friday airshows, suffered a bird strike to one of its four engines on Friday. In the ensuing landing on Lake Winnebago, it hit a rock that tore a basketball-sized hole in the flying boat’s hull. The damage forced the plane to miss its planned Saturday airshow appearance, but after extensive pumping and some repair work, it was able to fly home and did so on Tuesday, August 2nd.
The “Hawaii Mars II”, the aircraft showcased at AirVenture, is the lone flying example remaining of the type. Only seven aircraft were built in the 1930’s and 1940’s, with with most destroyed or scrapped long ago. She is owned by Coulson Flying Tankers in British Columbia, and has been used to fight wild fires in the region. A second intact Mars, named “Phillipine Mars”, is also owned by Coulson but does not currently fly. Phillipine Mars is painted in the colors she wore during her service in the US Navy as a long range patrol aircraft. There was previously a deal in place to send her to the National Museum of Naval Aviation, but it fell through and Coulson Flying Tankers is currently seeking a buyer for both aircraft as they are no longer being tasked with firefighting duties.
You can check out the stunning performance of the Martin Mars during AirVenture in our video:
Thunderbird #6, Major Alex Turner, is in good condition after ejecting from his F-16 today while preparing to land at Peterson AFB in Colorado. The Thunderbirds were returning after their flyover of the United States Air Force Academy graduation ceremony, which was attended by President Barack Obama. The aircraft came to rest in a field, nearly intact, after Major Turner ejected. Some have speculated that the engine may have failed, but the official cause is under investigation. Once the pilot was recovered and flown to the base, President Obama met with him shortly to express relief for his safety.
The team will observe a safety stand down following the incident, preventing performances for an undetermined period of time. This is standard protocol after a serious mishap.
We are extremely happy that Major Turner is uninjured, and hope he and the team can return to the skies soon.
The pilot of the Commemorative Air Force’s rare P-51C Mustang “Tuskegee Airmen” is uninjured after making an emergency belly landing at Dallas Executive Airport in Texas today. Unfortunately, the aircraft sustained significant damage in the incident, and a photo from the scene shows the propeller and spinner laying on the ground near the rest of the aircraft, completely detached. Although the incident is being described as an emergency landing, it is not clear at this point what sort of emergency led to the landing.
This particular aircraft has undergone extensive restoration in the past, first after its donation to the CAF and again after a crash that killed pilot Don Hinz in 2004. The second restoration was completed in 2009. The aircraft had since become a regular sight on the airshow circuit, performing aerobatics and sitting on display next to a traveling movie theater used to educate visitors about the Tuskegee Airmen, an all-black unit set up in World War II in a failed attempt to prove that black men could not fly. The aircraft was named for the unit and painted in the unit’s colors, including the distinctive red tail.
No one was injured when a Focke Wulf FW-190 had a landing incident in New Zealand today. Pilot Frank Parker was landing the German WWII fighter on a grass runway when one of the wheel brakes failed and the aircraft was thrown into a violent ground loop. The flight was in preparation for the Classic Fighters Airshow this weekend at the Omaka Aerodrome in Blenheim. Spectators rushed to the aircraft but Mr. Parker was able to climb out with no injuries. The aircraft sustained significant damage in the mishap, but is said to be repairable.