Cause of Breakup NOT Yet Known
The tragic fatal
accident that took the lives of a fine warbird flyer and a
well-known sport aviation figure, last Sunday, now appears to have
been the result of a wing failure, in-flight. The NTSB is giving
the matter their full attention and components of the aircraft are
now being evaluated to determine what broke the airplane up... with
the most prevalent possibilities (statistically speaking) being
overstress, corrosion, or fatigue.
Warbird Adventures' Thom Richard, whose operation has totaled up
an impressive safety record over the course of a number of years of
VERY active flying, is not making any guesses as to the cause of
the breakup but did authorize ANN to quote him in saying that, "I
wouldn't be pulling any heavy G's (in T-6/SNJ type aircraft), until
we know more about the failure."
Richard was not aware that any T-6 or SNJ aircraft had ever
experienced a legitimate inflight breakup, but thought that caution
might be advised until more info was forthcoming. Because of the
excellent safety record of this class of aircraft, heretofore, the
FAA is reportedly not considering any emergency actions in regards
to this airframe, and certainly not of the severity or immediacy
imposed on the T-34 community.
Richard notes that the warbird community has been very
supportive of his operation and their decision to voluntarily
"stand-down" until they have more information as to the cause of
the N453WA tragedy.
An official Warbird
Adventures statement adds that, "We have received many kind
words of condolence from people who have flown with us in the past.
The warbird community is a tight knit family; we all know each
other and care about each other. Our customers are our extended
family that we have formed relationships with during our flights
together. We are comforted by your concern and friendship during
these difficult times.
Our primary concern is for the safety and well being of our
customers and employees. Therefore, we have volunteered to
temporarily suspended our T-6/SNJ flight operations until we know
more about what happened. Warbird Adventures has had an
exemplary safety record and it is vitally important to us to
discover what caused this isolated incident. We are
working diligently with the investigating agencies and will post
more information as it becomes available. Please feel free to call
if you have questions regarding a flight you have already scheduled
In the accident that took place Monday, warbird Adventure's
Instructor/Pilot Jon Hedgecock and Task Research's Jim Kern left
Kissimmee Airport after 1600, on an instructional flight and went
down only a few minutes later. The accident was not deemed
survivable by law enforcement personnel at the scene.
Impact occurred near remote land in Lake Hamilton, FL, requiring
emergency and rescue workers to bring in heavy equipment to clear a
path to the accident. The accident was reported at 1630 local time,
and was situated some two miles west of Fire Tower Road.
North American N453WA (shown below) was a SNJ-6 (first
civ-registered in 1959) registered to warbird Adventures of
Kissimmee, FL, carrying SN # 121-42823. It was powered by a P&W
R1340 radial engine. Warbird Adventures is an active and highly
regarded flight-seeing and flight-training operation that owns a
number of SNJs, and a Bell 47 in full MASH Livery. The operation
has an impeccable safety record and is located a short distance
from the also-highly regarded Flying Tigers' Warbird Museum. While
warbird Adventures did experience some aircraft damage during the
recent spate of hurricane activity, N453WA was not one of the
Services are planned for this weekend for Jon Hedgecock, a
highly respected and experienced warbird jock... the memorial for
Jon has been scheduled at warbird Adventures facility Sunday, May
15 at 1700. The public is welcome, but out of respect for the
family members, WA asks those who are not affiliated with them or
the warbird community, to understand that this is,
otherwise, a private event.