Another sad day in the 2013 airshow season happened on June 22nd in Dayton. Jane Wicker was sitting on the “top” of the left bottom wing of her Stearman while Charlie Schwenker made a low inverted pass. Instead of a recovery with a roll to the left, the Stearman rolled right and hit the ground; both died instantly.
I met Jane for a few minutes on the flight line at Sun N Fun this spring after her show. She made a great impression on me as a really nice 44 year old lady from Virginia with two children. Jane got into wing walking in 1990 after answering a classified ad for a wing walker with “no experience necessary”. That ad was good enough to make it onto the Jay Leno Show one night where he made a few jokes about it. Jane walked the wing for many years and was also an accomplished pilot with many ratings, an aerobatic career of her own and even a surface level waiver. For that matter, she was the only wing walker I can think of who owned the airplane she walked on. Her plane was one of the nicest Stearmans I’ve seen in a long time. Jane put on a heck of a show, and I’m still not sure how you make that move from the upper surface of the wing to the lower surface. But she did it with grace and skill.
Charlie Schwenker was an accomplished sailplane pilot who moved over to aerobatics. With nearly 25 years of experience he has won awards and contests in the USA and in Canada. Besides flying the 450 Stearman, Charlie competed in the Pitts S-1 and Extra 300.
Both were super nice people who will be missed by an endless list of friends and family. Our sincerest condolences go out from the staff here at PhotoRecon for those members of their family. We will all say a prayer for both of you.
I waited for a while for things to “quiet” down before I wrote this. In my 50+ year association with aviation I’ve seen a lot of bad things happen. I’ve actually lost count of how many accidents I’ve seen including those resulting in death. I’ve taken a lot of pictures of them too, some were really graphic to say the least. I’ve had lots of opportunities to sell those photos and never have. The photos released by the Associated Press were simply heinous. I don’t think that Jane’s children or Charlie’s family needed to see them. Maybe there should be some consideration or “ethics”, there is no need to hide behind “its news” to publish material like that.
For us, we try to do positive pieces and I’m going to turn the clock back to April 2013 and let you see what Jane looked like doing what she did best. Jane walking the walking the wing with her ex-husband Kirk Wicker flying.
We would like to thank the great people at Sun N Fun for giving us the opportunity to take these pictures.
You can contact the author Mark Hrutkay at TNMark1@GMail.ComJane and Charlie by Mark Hrutkay