NTSB Blames FAA In Pilot's Death

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A pilot who died last year while practicing formation aerobatics prior to an air show should have been restricted from such flying by his FAA medical examiner, the NTSB said in its final report on the accident. Jan Wildbergh, 74, who had flown with the Geico Skytypers since 1986, died in September 2007. According to the NTSB, after completing their practice, the five-ship team executed a "pop up break" to return for landing. Wildbergh, however, flying a North American SN J-2, continued straight ahead in a slight descent, with the wings level and in a slight nose-down attitude, until the airplane hit the ground and erupted in flames. The NTSB said Wildbergh had an extensive history of heart problems and was taking medication, and the FAA medical examiner "clearly had sufficient information to justify restricting the pilot from commercial and/or aerobatic flight." Wildbergh had visited his cardiologist three days prior to the accident, complaining of multiple episodes of atrial fibrillation over the previous three months with fatigue and shortness of breath, the NTSB said.

At the time of the accident, Wildbergh had completed over 15 minutes of high-performance flight, including nearly two minutes of increased G-loading (up to 2.9 G), and had just completed the longest sustained-G maneuver of the show (30 seconds of 2G loading), the NTSB said. Wildbergh's widow, Rosemary, told Newsday she is "disappointed" with the NTSB report. "The NTSB didn't review the aircraft as much as they reviewed Jan's previous medical history," she said. "I can't imagine Jan getting into a plane if he felt unable to fly." The FAA's aviation medical office is reviewing the case, an FAA spokesperson told Newsday.