Wing walker Amanda Franklin dies

May 28, 2011

Airshow performer Amanda Franklin died late May 27. Doctors at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio had been treating her extensive burns, injuries, and ensuing infections since a March 12 crash landing and engine fire during a show routine. She was 25.

Amanda and husband Kyle Franklin were performing a wing-walking routine at Air Fiesta 2011 at Brownsville-South Padre International Airport when the engine of their Waco biplane lost power. Amanda was able to climb off the wing and into the forward cockpit seat before the forced landing, according to the National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report; she was badly burned in a post-impact fire.

In addition to performing as a wing-walker, Amanda was a pilot with tailwheel and multiengine ratings, served as the business manager for Franklin’s Flying Circus & Airshow and Younkin Airshows Inc., and served as announcer for her brother Matt Younkin's airshow routine. The daughter of airshow pilot Bobby Younkin, she was steeped in aviation culture from an early age and was well known in the airshow community.

“All of us in the aviation community mourn the terrible loss of Amanda Franklin, an extraordinary pilot and ambassador for general aviation,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller. “Her performances as a pilot and wing walker inspired thousands, and her loss will be keenly felt. Our deepest sympathy goes to her entire family and especially to her husband Kyle, who continues to recover from his own injuries.”

Kyle, who was also seriously injured in the incident, was discharged from the hospital March 28 and continued outpatient physical therapy, but Amanda remained in critical condition at Brooke Army Medical Center. The airshow and aviation community, including AOPA, expressed support for the injured couple, raising funds for their medical expenses.

Kyle provided daily updates on Amanda’s condition using the couple’s Facebook page, detailing the ups and downs of her treatment. He told supporters May 26 that her doctors did not expect her to survive another two weeks for the next skin graft treatment. “So, I made the hardest decision of my life today and put her on Comfort Care,” he wrote. “… They placed her in a more comfortable position and are doing everything to make her as comfortable as possible.”

“Amanda my love, I love you with all my heart, soul and everything I am. Our life together here was supposed to be seventy years not seven, but I look forward to seeing you in my dreams every night my love,” he wrote.

Kyle and Amanda began dating in 2004 and married in 2005, and Amanda began wing walking full time for the couple’s “Pirated Skies” act in 2009, the couple’s website said. The Neosho, Mo.-based Franklins are no strangers to tragedy. Kyle’s father, Jimmy Franklin, and Amanda’s father, Bobby Younkin, died in 2005 when their biplanes collided during an airshow performance in Saskatchewan, Canada.

Franklin is survived by her husband Kyle, mother Jeanie Younkin, brother Matt Younkin and his wife Michelle, niece Kimberly, grandfather Jim Younkin and his wife Ada, mother-in-law Audean Stroud and her husband Steve, and extended family.