A preliminary report on an investigation into the crash of a World War II-era plane that killed a Hampton pilot while practicing for a Pennsylvania air show found that the aircraft’s propeller had slowed and popping noises were heard by a witness just before the crash.
The National Transportation Safety Board last week released the findings of its initial probe into the crash on Aug. 20 at the Great Pocono Raceway Air Show.
Commercial pilot Andrew Travnicek, 50, was piloting the plane as part of the Geico Skytypers Air Show Team when it crashed during a practice flight after taking off from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport in Avoca, Pa.
Travnicek, who retired from the Air Force in 2013 and began flying for JetBlue Airways, was a flight instructor at Hampton Airfield.
According to the NTSB report, Travnicek was flying a North American SNJ-2 N52900 aircraft at the time of the crash, which occurred during the initial climb.
The team typically flies six planes and performs low-level, precision demonstrations, the report said.
Travnicek was flying plane No. 3, which began to decelerate when the pilot of plane No. 4 heard him transmit the message, “Three’s got an emergency.”
The plane was about 100 feet off the ground when it began to turn and roll and went through a 20-degree bank, which continued to increase as the plane descended, the report said.
“The smoke system then came on, the airplane impacted the ground, and a post impact fire ensued,” the report said.
Audio and video reviewed from plane No. 4 showed that the propeller RPM on Travnicek’s plane had dropped before it began turning and descending.
“Audio and video provided by a witness who was just outside of the airport’s security fence also revealed that when the No. 3 airplane flew by just prior to the accident, they heard popping noises similar to backfiring of an engine. No smoke was observed emanating from the airplane while this was occurring,” the report said.