CULPEPER, Va. - A veteran Cincinnati pilot was killed when his homebuilt plane crashed during an aerobatic, night-time performance in an air show in Virginia Friday, according to Virginia State Police.
Jon Thocker was performing with his friend and long-time flying partner Ken Rieder of Cincinnati when Thocker’s plane hit the ground during the Culpeper Air Fest.
Thocker and Rieder performed under the name of Redline Airshows and had been flying together in formation for more than 12 years, according to the Redline Airshows website. The two were performing their signature night flight that included trails of fireworks shooting from the planes' wings.
A video on the Redline Facebook page shows a pilot’s eye-view of their fireworks performance at the Oregon International Air Show two weeks ago. A Redline Facebook photo shows Thocker loading up fireworks for Friday’s show in Virginia.
The crash happened about 8:10 p.m. at Culpeper Regional Airport. No one on the ground was injured, according to state police. The FAA, NTSB and state police are investigating what caused it.
The team had performed at 13 air shows this year - including the Dayton Air Show June 22-23 - according to their schedule, and had just recently began flying their new Vans RV-8s, which they built themselves, according to Air Show News.
Thocker had built 10 custom planes, according to the Culpeper Air Show program. The plane he flew Friday night was registered with the FAA on Oct. 2, 2017 and is listed as amateur-built and experimental, according to a Northern Virginia news website, InsideNova.com.
Thocker flew heavy cargo planes around the world for DHL and retired after 25 years “to pursue a lifelong passion for building and flying experimental aircraft,” according to his bio on the Redline Airshows website. Thocker owned and operated Redline, LLC, a company specializing in “state of the art avionics installations and experimental aircraft builder assistance,” the website says.
His partner, Rieder, was a kid when he was inspired to pursue aviation after seeing the Blue Angels perform at Lunken Airport, Rieder's bio says. He is an aerobatic and multi-engine flight instructor and serves as flight-lead for the Redline team.
Air-show fans and others who knew Thocker are expressing their condolences and sharing their memories on Twitter.
AirshowView360 first identified Thocker as the pilot in a Facebook post. Their post said Thocker was “well known in the airshow community, a wonderful person and friend who always loved to talk to everyone. He will be greatly missed.”