Three members of the US Army Golden Knights parachute team remain hospitalized tonight after they were injured early this morning during a pre-dawn training jump at Homestead ARB near Miami. The incident occurred right around 4am, when two of the soldiers were airlifted and the third was transported by ambulance. Two remain in critical condition and one is in serious condition.
The team is based at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, but conducts winter training at Homestead prior to each airshow season. Their first performance is scheduled for the end of March. They routinely jump into events at night, and all indications are that they were practicing such a jump when something went wrong.
An unnamed pilot of the US Navy Blue Angels was thankfully uninjured after a landing mishap at NAF El Centro today. The pilot was landing at the base when the aircraft’s main landing gear failed to extend properly. The pilot was able to make an emergency landing with the F-18 Hornet without injuring himself or anyone on the ground.
The incident is under investigation.
The Blue Angels are in the middle of their winter training period at El Centro. They use the base for their training flights every year because the remote location and good weather allow for excellent training conditions. Their airshow season is scheduled to start in March.
This incident should not impact the season, although they have struggled with aircraft availability in recent years after several major incidents grounded some of the jets assigned to the team. Depending on how severe the damage to the aircraft is, it may be grounded for some time.
Witnesses say the aircraft encountered an issue in flight, leading to the crash. The crash site was in a residential area not far from the team’s home airport, the Republic Airport in Farmingdale, NY. Video taken immediately before the crash shows the aircraft in a spin as it approaches the ground.
Nobody on the ground was injured. The fire was quickly extinguished by local and airport fire crews.
Ken is a second generation Skytyper. His father, Bob is also on the team. Ken first flew with the Skytypers at the age of eight. The team’s website says he caught the aviation bug early in life from his father. Ken graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1989 and earned his Navy wings in 1991.
He went on to fly P-3 Orions on both coasts with VP-23 and VP-46. His career also took him to the Netherlands, where he flew P-3s with the Royal Netherlands Navy from 1996 to 1998. Ken opted to transition from active duty with the Navy and was quickly hired by TWA, where he flew MD-80s, 757s, and 767s. After giving up his active duty status, Ken was also hired by VR-52 in Willow Grove, PA, as a Navy Reserve Instruction Pilot flying DC-9s around the world. Recently, he was the Commanding Officer of VR-58 in Jacksonville, FL, flying C-40s (737-700s) throughout the world. He leaves behind a wife and two children.
An investigation is underway involving the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
The GEICO Skytypers are well known for their skytyping and airshow demonstrations. Using their WWII-era SNJ trainers, they create words in the sky the size of the Empire State Building.
As of April 6th, the team’s performances at March AFB and Sun ‘n Fun have been canceled. The rest of the season schedule is still to be determined. Canceling shows while the team stands down to investigate the mishap and take time to grieve is standard protocol following crashes.
“Though we are deeply saddened by their loss of a valuable teammate, we totally understand and support the Thunderbirds’ decision. They have a requirement to take the necessary time to assess their current situation and plot a path forward, and we certainly respect their professionalism and diligence in ensuring their safe return to airshows,” said John Leenhouts, SUN ‘n FUN President/CEO.
Leenhouts also confirmed that this year’s daily airshows will include several activities to honor the service of Maj. Stephen Del Bagno, the fallen Thunderbird Number 4, and that a portion of the proceeds from this year’s event will be donated through the proper channels to support the Thunderbird family.
The Air Force’s Air Combat Command (ACC) and Sun ‘n Fun are working together to bring alternative USAF demonstrations to the event.
In a statement, Airshow Director Greg Gibson said “We appreciate ACC’s efforts on our behalf in such a short timeframe. They are working to make available a potential first-line combat aircraft to perform full aerial displays and/or engage in Heritage Flights with several of the numerous rare WWII fighters we have in attendance this year. We will make periodic announcements throughout the following days as these appearances are confirmed.”
A Royal Air Force engineer was killed Tuesday when a Red Arrow jet crashed at RAF Valley in North Wales. Corporal Jonathan Bayliss was riding in the Hawk T1 aircraft when it crashed around 1:30pm local time.
The pilot survived and is currently receiving medical treatment for his injuries. The Hawk training aircraft was flying from RAF Valley to RAF Scrampton, where the famous aerobatic display team is based, at the time of the incident.
Bayliss was n Aircraft Technician with the aerobatic team. Born in Dartford, Kent, he joined the Royal Air Force in 2001 and was selected as a member of the Red Arrows team in 2016. In 2017, he was leader of the Red Arrows’ dye team, who help replace the jet’s famous red, white and blue smoke systems after landing. For 2018, as a member of the Circus team, Bayliss was a part of a small group of highly-trained engineers who travel with the aircraft and provide technical support to the Red Arrows when the aircraft operate away from their home base.
Sergeant Will Allen, leader of the Red Arrow’s group of traveling support engineers, known as the “Circus” said: “Jon had a big a presence on the Squadron and with his wide beaming smile, and dry humour, could lighten up any dull moment or lift spirits when needed. Both inside and outside of work, he was a generous, kind and caring man who could also always be relied upon.”
Eyewitnesses reported seeing only the pilot eject from the aircraft as it neared the ground. Photos show black smoke rising from the airfield. An air ambulance helicopter was dispatched to the scene and airport fire services responded. Some reports indicate that a bird strike may have led to the crash, but the accident is under investigation.
AirshowStuff extends our condolences to the family, friends and teammates of Corporal Bayliss.
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.