UPDATE 6:00pm EDT: Team officials have confirmed that the deceased pilot is Ken Johansen, the team’s Executive Officer and a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, a Naval aviator, and a professional airline pilot. He leaves behind a wife and two children.
ORIGINAL REPORT: Our friends the GEICO Skytypers have suffered a great loss today, after one of the team’s historic Navy SNJ-2 aircraft, first used to train the pilots in WWII, went down in a small neighborhood on Long Island, NY.
The cause of the accident is unknown, as is the name of the deceased pilot, likely pending notification of family. Video from the scene, which can be seen HERE, shows one of the aircraft spiraling out of control straight into the ground.
The world-famous team is based nearby at Republic Airport in Farmingdale, and had just closed out a successful weekend of performances over Jones Beach for the Bethpage Air Show.
They are best known for flying at air shows across the country, as well as “skytyping” by flying line-abreast formations to type dot matrix-style messages in the sky, with letters as large as the Empire State Building. A computer in the lead aircraft uses a custom-programmed tablet to send commands to the other planes via radio signals.
They are also well known for public outreach efforts at each air show they perform at, visiting education centers and hospitals, as well as inviting local students to come out and see their living history up-close and personal.
The team was scheduled to perform next at the NAS Patuxent River Air Expo, NAS Patuxent River, MD this coming weekend.
Several staff at AvGeekery work closely with the team throughout the year at various air shows, and have for many years. They are an amazing group of dedicated folks, some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, and true professionals in aviation.
Our hearts go out to them at this very difficult time.
We will update as more information is released.