Friends, colleagues. and competitors mourned the loss of Mike Mangold, a champion aerobatic and racing pilot who was killed Dec. 6 in a crash just after takeoff from Apple Valley Airport in Apple Valley, California.
Fire Marshal Jason Nailon told CBS News that a witness reported seeing flames coming out of the engine of the Aero Vodochody L-39 Albatros as it taxied for departure with Mangold and one other person aboard. Both lost their lives when the jet crashed and exploded just after departure, around 2 p.m. local time. Authorities did not immediately identify the second person aboard.
Tributes began pouring in online almost immediately. Red Bull, which organizes the Red Bull Air Race World Championship, an international series that Mangold won in 2004, 2005 and 2007, posted an online tribute Dec. 7, reacting with “great sadness at the news of the untimely passing of one of their most vibrant and respected friends.” Mangold flew in the series from 2004 through 2009, and continued to be involved in the series as a coach and commentator thereafter.
Red Bull pilot Michael Goulian, also a fellow aerobatic champion, was among the many mourning Mangold’s death.
“Mike was simply a consummate aviator in every sense of the word. A big, bold, brash fighter pilot who we all loved,” Goulian told AOPA.
Mangold graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1978, according to the website of Racing Jets Inc., an organization, of which Mangold was a director at large, that represents jet racing pilots and governs the jet class at the National Championship Air Races. He was named the Outstanding Graduate of the Air Force Weapons School in 1983, finishing first in his class, and flew F-4 Phantoms for 10 years, logging more than 2,500 hours.
Mangold retired from military service in 1989 and began an airline career that would include service for two major airlines, logging more than 11,000 hours in various aircraft models. He began flying airshows and aerobatic competition in 1990, and won the International Aerobatic Club’s L. Paul Soucy award in 2002 as the highest-scoring unlimited pilot for the year. He won the U.S. National Aerobatic Championship Unlimited Known gold medal that year, finishing second overall behind Kirby Chambliss, according to International Aerobatic Club President Michael Heuer. Mangold was California’s top aerobatic competition pilot for five years.
“This is a tremendous loss. Mike Mangold was a pilot’s pilot and widely admired in the community,” said Heuer, noting that Mangold represented his country in the World Aerobatic Championships twice: in 2001, in Spain, and again in 2003 in Lakeland, Florida.
Mangold, 60, began his aviation career as a skydiver, and traded parachute packs for flight time in a Super Cub starting in 1977. He logged more than 5,000 jumps, and won national championships in accuracy and para-skiing, according to his online biography. He was a member of the U.S. Parachute Team from 1981 to 1985, and participated in a record-setting formation skydive of 300 jumpers over Russia in 1996.
Mangold won many competitions and races, but told AOPA Pilot in 2011 that winning wasn’t his sole motivator.
“It’s a feeling of accomplishment, but I don’t need winning to be complete,” Mangold said at the time. “The journey may be more fun than the end.”
Mangold is survived by his wife, Julie, and two children, Nick and Melissa.
The NTSB is investigating the crash.