The Great Pocono Raceway Airshow confirmed “with heavy hearts” the death August 20 of Geico Skytypers Air Show Team pilot Andy Travnicek, 50, who was killed near Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pennsylvania, after a takeoff accident in a North American SNJ–2 warbird during a practice flight for the show.
The Associated Press reported that the two-seat World War II advanced military trainer crashed “shortly after takeoff” and that Travnicek was the sole occupant. The aircraft flew north from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport “when it suddenly veered to the left,” crashed, and caught fire, the news agency said.
The Long Pond, Pennsylvania, raceway recognized Travnicek as “a member of our airshow family” and held a moment of silence for the No. 3. left-wing pilot. Fellow performers vowed to participate in the weekend’s airshow “in the memory of Andy,” the raceway posted to Facebook.
The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds demonstration team headliners offered a “toast” on their Facebook page to the U.S. Air Force Academy graduate and said he was a “phenomenal pilot and friend.” The Thunderbirds performed a missing man formation salute during a final pass over the front straightaway at the triangular track August 21. Airshow events were canceled August 22 because of Henri, which made landfall in Rhode Island as a tropical storm.
Smokehouse Pilots Club founder Gabriel Muller, a Washington, D.C., aviator who previously flew with Travnicek during a T–6 Texan demonstration ride, praised him as “a great person and an amazing pilot” in a post to Facebook.
Travnicek, a New Englander known to his friends as “Trav,” was drawn to aviation after a flight in a Cessna, in his hometown of Southbridge, Massachusetts. He learned to fly gliders at the Air Force Academy and later became a pilot instructor. The former Lockheed C–5 Galaxy pilot and commercial airline first officer had flying experience with a variety of military and civilian aircraft. He was deployed to Spain, Qatar, and Afghanistan, the Geico team wrote in a tribute on its website.
Travnicek’s wife, Sandy, is also a military veteran and a warbird pilot. The two of them frequently flew the North American SNJ U.S. Navy version of the T–6 Texan for the Commemorative Air Force. A Skytyper accident in 2018 killed pilot Ken Johansen.