Dayton Air Show plane crash: 2 dead after stunt plane spirals out of control

DAYTON, Ohio -

A stunt plane crashed in a ball of flames in front of thousands at an Ohio air show Saturday, killing a wing walker and the pilot instantly.

The Boeing IB75A Stearman crashed around 12:45 p.m. Saturday at the Vectren Air Show at Dayton International Airport.

On the Jane Wicker Airshow Facebook page, a message announced with "sad hearts" that 44-year-old Jane Wicker, the wing walker aboard the plane and 64-year-old Charlie Schwenker, the pilot lost their lives. No one on the ground was hurt, according to officials at the scene.

The plane burst into flames when it hit the ground near the air show's runway. A fire truck extinguished the blaze. A video posted on YouTube shows the plane Wicker referred to as the Aurora as it went down. 

On the video, the air show's announcer narrates the stunt as the fixed wing, single-engine aircraft rolls over while the stuntwoman perches on a wing.

"Now she's still on that far side. Keep an eye on Jane. Keep an eye on Charlie. Watch this! Jane Wicker, sitting on top of the world," said the announcer, right before the plane makes a quick turn and nosedives into the turf.

Thousands of spectators witnessed the accident at what is considered one of the premier aviation events in the country.

"The pilot was trying to invert the aircraft, lost altitude really quickly, tried to turn it over and the wing hit the ground," said Todd Sayers, 46, of Union, Ky. "I was getting ready to say, 'the plane is getting too close,' and the plane crashed."

Sayers, who estimates he was roughly 600 feet from the the scene of the crash, attended the event with two children, including his 13-year-old daughter, Lauren. He has attended the event for the past few years and while he always knew something like this could happen, he never expected it.

"I never expected to see it. It's one of those things that in the back of your mind you know could happen but you never expect it," said Sayers, who plans to attend next year's event.

While Sayers may not have expected it, Saturday's fatal accident wasn't the first in the history of the Dayton Air Show. Jim LeRoy was killed July 28, 2007 when his biplane crashed into the runway during a performance with the X-Team Codename: Mary's Lamb aerobatics team.

The rest of Saturday's show was canceled as a result of the accident.

According to her website, Wicker, a recently engaged mother of two teenage boys, has flown planes since she received her pilot's license in 1989. The who lives in Bristow, Va. resident began wing walking in 1990 after responding to a classified advertisement for a wing walker at the Flying Circus Airshow. She was the primary attraction for 12 years, her site bio added.

On Thursday, Wicker posted a message stating she was heading to Dayton, Ohio for the air show. Wicker, whose Jane Wicker Walker Airshows business is based in Fort Royal, Va. said she was ready to "rock this town."

On her website, Wicker called the stunt routine a "managed risk," citing an "enormous amount of practice and fine tuning" that goes into a performance. 

She also wrote that the airplane goes through "microscopic care" to ensure her and the pilot's safety.

When asked if she has ever had a "close call" while performing, Wicker responded:

"No, and we never plan to. We take what we do seriously. We take every safety precaution imaginable from the impeccably maintained airplane to our current skill levels. We make sure that we are top notch physically and emotionally and never take chances. Every fine detail of the act is thoroughly planned, intensely rehearsed and we never deviate from our plan."

The Vectren Air Show near Dayton released a statement after the crash stating that Saturday tickets would be honored for Sunday's show.

Officials from the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the crash.

The air show usually draws around 70,000 people and has a $3 million to $5 million impact on the Dayton economy.


People in attendance at the show took to Facebook to express their shock and grief:

"My husband and his dad and brother were there. He text me right away to tell me what happened and that they were ok incase i heard about it. He said they were about 200 ft away. They wont be going back tomorrow even though they reserved a tent area. He said it was too tragic to want to go back tomorrow," wrote Linda Marie.

Warning: Below is a detailed video of the actual crash that some viewers may find upsetting (mobile and tablet users can view the video at the following link:

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