When his vintage World War II plane crashed shortly after takeoff at an airstrip in eastern Pennsylvania on Friday, an Air Force Academy graduate and seasoned pilot died. Andy Travnicek, 50, a commercial airline pilot from Hampton, New Hampshire, was a member of the Geico Skytypers Air Show Team and was slated to perform in his North American SNJ-2 on Saturday at the Great Pocono Raceway Airshow.
In a crash at a Pennsylvania airport, a WWII plane pilot, an Air Force veteran, and one of the “Geico Skytypers” was killed
Authorities said the crash happened around 12:35 p.m. at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport. The jet was flying north when it abruptly veered to the left, crashed into the grass, and caught fire, according to Carl Beardsley, the airport director. The only person on board was Travnicek, and there were no injuries on the ground. The Skytypers, who identified Travnicek as the pilot, claimed the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are working together on an investigation. “At this moment, our thoughts and prayers are with Andy and his family,” the statement read. On its Facebook page, the United States Air Force Thunderbirds issued a “toast” to the deceased pilot, stating that Travnicek was a graduate of the Air Force Academy and a former C-5 Galaxy cargo jet pilot. According to a statement on the Skytypers web page, he also flew the C-21 Learjet, T-34C Turbomentor, T-6 Texan II, and MC-12 Liberty ISR aircraft, as well as the Galaxy in special operations missions. The Thunderbirds remarked, “He was a fantastic pilot and buddy.”
According to the Skytypers, Andy Travnicek “knew he wanted to be a pilot at an early age after flying in a Cessna with a local pilot in his hometown, Southbridge, MA.” “He went on to the United States Air Force Academy to learn how to fly gliders and eventually became a pilot instructor.” He received a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering and a master’s degree in business administration from Nova Southeastern University. According to the Skytypers, Travnicek underwent deployments to Spain, Qatar, and Afghanistan, as well as working as a staff member with students at the United States Air Force Academy. Travnicek was a first officer with a large airline at the time of his death, but he also flew alternative left wing with the Skytypers. “He enjoyed flying warbirds to honor the men and women of the United States military from all eras and branches,” the Skytypers added. “Andy wanted to encourage young people to pursue aviation-related hobbies and careers.” The Long Island, New York-based Skytypers employ six World War II-era aircraft, the North American SNJ-2 and its T-6 Texan variant, to make airborne smoke signals and perform maneuvers. These aircraft were intended as advanced training aircraft to prepare pilots for battle. The pilot’s family received “deepest condolences” from Pocono Raceway. “After much study and with the backing of the GEICO Skytypers,” it claimed it decided to hold the airshow as planned.
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