Had Just Practiced Routine For Upcoming Airshow Season
With heavy hearts,
Aero-News has learned up-and-coming stunt pilot Nick Nilmeyer died
Tuesday morning in an apparent landing mishap.
Nilmeyer, just 23 years-old and already an accomplished
performer, had just wrapped up a practice routine and was on
approach to land at Metz Field in Greenfield, CA when his Extra 300
crashed about 20 feet off the runway.
The small airfield is owned by veteran airshow performer Wayne
Handley, whom the Monterey Herald described as Nilmeyer's mentor.
Handley's wife, Karen, says her husband had watched Nilmeyer
practice his routine earlier that morning, but was not watching as
the 23-year-old pilot came in to land at around 10:35 am
"He's such an up-and-comer," family friend Karl Koeppen, who had
known Nilmeyer for 10 years, said. "It's just a damn shame to lose
someone this young and talented... Nick performed on a canvas in
Koeppen told the Herald that Nilmeyer soloed when he was 16, had
his ticket at 17 and performed in his first airshow just two years
later. He had also earned a surface waiver from the FAA, meaning
Nilmeyer could fly as near to the ground as he felt comfortable
with during his routine -- testimony to Nilmeyer's skills at the
From an early age, Nilmeyer had dreamed of being a professional
pilot, Koeppen said. "While most kids had Pam Anderson posters on
their walls, Nick had Pam Anderson and airplanes. It was a split
Nilmeyer was booked for eight to 10 shows this year, Koeppen
said. That schedule included performances for the International
Council of Air Shows, or ICAS, as one of its "Stars of Tomorrow,"
as well as for the inaugural season of the Association of
Competition Airshow Pilots (ACAP) "eXtreme Airshow Challenge."
At just 81 days into 2006, already this year has hit the air
show community particularly hard.
On January 6, "Russian Thunder" pilot Eric
Beard was lost in an accident in Washington state.
Beard, who was also scheduled to perform with ACAP, was not at the
controls of his heavily modified Yak 54 when he lost his life...
but instead was flying Piper Seneca twin, hauling
freight for his day job with Airpac Airlines. Authorities say
Beard's airplane crashed at night, in low visibility, while on
approach to land at Skagit Regional Airport.
aerobatics can certainly be a dangerous game -- requiring the
utmost levels of skill and concentration at all times -- Beard's
accident, and now Nilmeyer's loss, reminds pilots of all stripes
that the worse can happen at any time... even during what could be
termed comparatively "routine" maneuvers.
Nilmeyer, while certainly aware of the risks, also felt the
rewards of flying were worth the risk -- and he felt the compulsion
to share this joy and talent with others... especially children,
some not much younger than himself.
With that in mind, Koeppen provides as fitting a eulogy for the
young pilot as any.
"Young kids were like 'Dude, how can I do that?' [Nick] would
say 'Go to the airport and wash and wax and pay your dues. Then if
you're lucky, someone will offer to teach you.'"
ANN extends our condolences to Nick Nilmeyer's friends and
family during this traumatic time.