This morning, I was working on quite a different post for Flight Club, when I received a text from another writer: "Something just happen? Reports of smoke and emergency crews?" I walked out to the flight line and saw the scene above.
A few minutes later, I saw this tweet from EAA's Operations. The airspace became hauntingly silent. I also heard that the aircraft involved was a Breezy. I had sat on a Breezy just the day before, owned by rocket builder Paul Breed. Paul's Breezy was still parked, so we knew it wasn't his.
A few others shared rumors that two people were transported to the hospital from the scene, still able to talk, but in critical condition. Having no other details about the crash, and needing to drive back to Milwaukee for my flight home, I left AirVenture with a heavy heart after what had been such an incredible week.
The EAA released this statement this afternoon:
At 9 a.m. on Thursday, July 31, a custom-built Breezy aircraft was involved in a landing accident on the east side of Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. There were two people aboard the aircraft at the time, and both were transferred to local hospitals. Unfortunately, the male pilot died from his injuries this afternoon, while the female passenger is in serious condition. The names of those involved have not yet been released.
The FAA and NTSB, which are based on the airfield as part of the annual Experimental Aircraft Association's EAA AirVenture fly-in at Oshkosh, immediately began to investigate the accident in conjunction with airport and local law enforcement officials. The NTSB is leading the investigation into the accident.
Air operations at Wittman Regional Airport were halted for a little more than an hour immediately after the accident, but resumed in part by late morning and fully resumed by early afternoon.
No other details regarding the accident or identities of the occupants are known as of this time. This information will be updated as new information becomes available.
Breezys have been around for 50 years, but I have to admit I had never heard of them before this week in Oshkosh. The EAA is hosting a large fly-in for Breezy owners, to commemorate the anniversary.
UPDATE: EAA released the names of the passengers this morning, from yesterday's Breezy crash:
The male pilot James Oeffinger of Versailles, Kentucky, (DOB 8/4/1939) died from his injuries Thursday afternoon. The female passenger – Jennifer Woloszyk of Elmhurst, Illinois (DOB 4/7/1993) remains in serious condition.
Top photo by Paul Thompson