Pilots, wing walker lost in airshow accidents

August 22, 2011

A pilot and a wing walker died in weekend airshow accidents in Kansas City, Mo., and at a military base in Michigan, and a member of the British Royal Air Force’s Red Arrows flight team died in a crash during an air festival in Bournemouth, England.

Aerobatic performer Bryan Jensen died Aug. 20 when his show biplane known as “The Beast” struck the ground during a maneuver at the Kansas City Air Show at Kansas City Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport. Jensen, who was a Boeing 747 captain for Delta Airlines, had been an aerobatic performer for more than 15 years.

On Aug. 21, wing walker Todd Green was attempting to move from a Stearman biplane to a helicopter when he appeared to lose his grip, falling about 200 feet to the ground at the Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison County, Mich. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

AirshowJensen’s website describes his aircraft as a highly modified, single-place airplane with its roots in the Pitts Model 12. Jensen, who grew up in Iowa and soloed three airplanes on his sixteenth birthday and had described himself as obsessed with flying, had more than 23,000 hours of flight time, it said.

“The Kansas City Air Show offers heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Bryan Jensen and the show is devastated by this terrible accident,” said organizers in a statement Aug. 20. They also announced their decision—made after consulting with the other performers—to go forward with the Sunday portion of the show.

“Aerobatic flying can be a dangerous thing as evidenced by today’s accident. However, the public was always safe as the air space guidelines were rigidly followed. The show’s emergency response worked as planned and emergency personnel were quickly on the scene,” the announcement said. The statement also noted that FAA and NTSB personnel were on site investigating the accident.

In Michigan, Green “was walking on the wing of a Stearman biplane flown by John Mohr and attempting to transfer to a helicopter flown by Roger Buis at the time of the incident. Mr. Green had successfully completed the maneuver during the air show on Saturday in similar weather conditions,” said Selfridge ANG Base’s 127th Wing commander, Col. Michael Thomas, in a statement posted on a Facebook page about the Selfridge airshow.

“The entire Selfridge family joins together in mourning the death of Mr. Green. Our hearts reach out to those who are impacted by this tragedy, including his family, friends and our many visitors who witnessed this tragic event,” he said. “As airmen, we understand the inherent risks associated with flight, but we aviators are a close-knit family, and when a tragedy like this occurs we all share in the loss.”

It was the first incident since a fatal T-33 crash in 1994 at the show, officials said.

John Egging, 33, a pilot with the Royal Air Force’s Red Arrows Aerobatic team, died when his Hawk T1 aircraft crashed southeast of England’s Bournemouth Airport on Aug. 20 after a display during the Bournemouth Air Festival, said a statement issued by the RAF. A news account said the pilot issued a mayday call shortly before the aircraft crashed in a field.