Veteran aerial performer Jane Wicker was killed Saturday during an air show performance in Vandalia, Ohio. The wing walking wonder woman was dead upon impact when the plane crashed during the show.
Wicker’s signature move was hanging underneath the plane’s wing by her feet and sitting on the bottom of the airplane while it’s upside down. Witnesses observed she was performing this feat when the plane crashed at around 12:45 pm at the Vectran Air show near Dayton.
Observers stated the aircraft, used for training pilots during World War II, appeared to have been flying too low when a wing clipped the ground and crashed. The plane rolled appearing as a fire ball on the ground observers noted.
Ian Hoyt, aviation photographer and licensed pilot, witnessed the crash. While taking photos, “I realized they were too low and too slow and before I knew it, they hit the ground,” he said. He theorized the plane had stalled and didn’t have enough air speed to complete the maneuver. He credited the pilot for steering away from onlookers possibly preventing a greater catastrophe.
Charlie Schwenker was the pilot of the aircraft at the time of the accident. The plane was a 450 HP Stearman model craft called “Aurora.” He, along with the wing walking wonder woman, was dead upon impact when the aircraft exploded upon collision with the ground. They were the third act of the show. A review of records listed the plane as registered under Wicker’s name.
Wicker worked as a budget analyst for the FAA and had obtained a college degree in finance. It is believed that Wicker responded to a classified ad from a Flying Circus Airshow in Bealeton, Va., in 1990, for a wing walking position.
“I actually walk along the wing of an airplane,” she explained in an interview to WDTU, “No safety line, no tether, no harness, and no parachute.”
Wicker told WDTU that she was planning to marry her fiancé and fellow team member Rock Skowbo, on the wing of her plane in 2014.
“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,” she wrote on her website.
Ohio State patrol spokeswoman Lt. Anne Ralston and Dayton International Airport spokeswoman Linda Hughes both confirmed the deaths of a pilot and stunt walker but denied officially releasing any of the names.
“That’s my ‘Diana Prince’ side,” Wicker said of her FAA work. “Wing walking is my ‘Wonder Woman,’” she commented hours before being killed in the accident.
By Thomas Barr