A pilot who flew with a World War II stunt plane team died Friday during a practice run for a Virginia air show, officials said.
Jan Wildbergh, 74, the flight leader of the Geico Skytypers Air Show Team, was piloting one of six SNJ-2 planes over the Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach, Va., around noon, officials said.
Larry Arken, deputy squadron commander of the nine-pilot team, said that the pilots had just finished rehearsing their routine and were coming in for a landing when Wildbergh’s No. 6 plane, the last in the formation, crashed.
Arken said witnesses told him the plane appeared to crash while still under its own power. Team spokesman Ralph Robert told WAVY-TV in Portsmouth that the plane had no ejection system and was probably flying too low for Wildbergh to use his parachute. “He probably tried to continue making the maneuver and save the plane, possibly by doing a belly flop,” Roberts said.
The squadron performs at air shows throughout the country, delivering aerial messages 10,000 feet in the air that can stretch eight miles wide. The planes were used to train naval pilots during World War II.