Daredevil wing walker and aviator Jane Wicker, 44, was killed in a horrific stunt plane crash in Ohio Saturday that also killed Charlie Schwenker, 64, who was in the pilot seat maneuvering the plane.
The accident occurred at 12.46 p.m. EST at the famed Vectren Dayton Air Show. Wicker was performing atop the Stearman biplane when it plunged to the ground, said Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Spokesman Lynn Lunsford.
Wicker was wing walking on the plane doing her famed act as the third performer at the 39th Vectren Dayton Air Show. The plane, a 450 HP Stearman called “Aurora,” was a mangled mess after the crash.
A video posted on WHIO-TV shows the plane doing a cartwheel as Wicker is seen sitting on the wing. The plane tilted and nosedived to the ground bursting into flames on a grassy tract between two runways at the Ohio air show.
Although a fire truck rushed to the scene within two minutes and extinguished the flames, it could not save Wicker and Schwenker.
“My understanding is there was nothing (emergency responders) could do for the victims of the crash,” said Lt. Mark Nichols with the FFA.
Jane Wicker air show’s official Facebook page announced the two deaths by stating: “It is with sad hearts that we announce that Jane Wicker and Charlie Schwenker were tragically killed while performing at the Vectren Dayton Airshow.”
The Facebook statement added that no one else was involved in the accident.
Just before the crash, an air show announcer described Wicker’s daring balancing act atop the plane moving at 110 mph as follows:
"You're facing that wind and then you have to fight the wind, and then you have to get yourself back upright. ... Watch this, Jane Wicker sitting on top of the world.”
Within seconds the plane crashed to the ground, the stunned crowds erupting into screams.
The Associated Press quoted Ian Hoyt, 20, an aviation photographer who was at the air show as saying: "I realized [the plane was] was too low and too slow. And before I knew it, they hit the ground. I'm still shaking."
The Dayton air show's website called Jane Wicker’s wing walking act "daring and breathtaking." Describing her stunts, the site says: "With no safety line and no parachute, Jane amazes the crowd by climbing, walking, and hanging all over her beautiful 450 HP Stearman aircraft she affectionately calls 'Aurora.'"
According to Wicker's website, she saw a classified ad in the Washington Post from the Flying Circus Air Show in Bealeton, Va., in 1990 and applied for the wing-walking position thinking it would be fun.
"Her first time airborne on the wing also happened to be her first show. She fell in love with it," says the website. Her full-time job, however, was that of a budget analyst for the FAA.
Wicker wrote on her website: "What you see us do out there is after an enormous amount of practice and fine tuning, not to mention the airplane goes through microscopic care. It is a managed risk and that is what keeps us alive."
Meanwhile, the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the horrific crash. Yesterday’s remaining air show performances were canceled. Sunday’s show will go on, said officials.
Video: Interview with Jane Wicker and some of her wing walking stunts
Video – Shows the stunt plane as it bursts in flames on hitting the ground.