AVOCA, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — A day of practice for The Great Pocono Raceway Airshow ended with a deadly plane crash in Luzerne County.
It claimed the life of a longtime pilot and United States Air Force veteran.
The Geico Skytypers flight team was at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport preparing for this weekend’s airshow. But Friday afternoon, the team lost one of its own in a crash officials say happened moments after one of the planes left the runway.
50-year-old Andy Travnicek was the pilot of Geico Skytyper plane number three. His team members say he was a graduate of the U.S. Air Force academy, served in the military, and was also a commercial airline pilot.
“There was one soul on board who was in the aircraft when the incident occurred here at the airport,” airport director Carl Beardsly, Jr. said.
Investigators say the New Hampshire pilot crashed Friday afternoon at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport. Travnicek and the rest of his team were practicing for this weekend’s Great Pocono Raceway Airshow.
“I mean, literally, the flames went sky-high,” eyewitness Carol Paupst said.
Paupst witnessed the fiery crash from afar.
“I watched two go off, and then two go off, and then the last two go off. And so I said, ‘when these go off they’re going to go up in the air’. And as soon as I said that, it crashed,” Paupst said.
Just one day before the crash, Eyewitness News got to experience a flight with the Skytypers. The team flies the World War II-era planes for crowds all across the country.
“We heard the jets flying over, and we came outside so we wanted to see the jets flying over and then we look over and we saw the big cloud of smoke,” eyewitness Katie Bonitz of Avoca said.
Bonitz lives a short distance from the airport. She says it was a sight she never imagined seeing, let alone from her backyard.
“Prayers to the pilot, and his family,” Bonitz said.
Officials say The Great Pocono Raceway Airshow is still on for Saturday and Sunday. But raceway officials tell us the Geico Skytypers are no longer part of the show.
The FAA and the NTSB are working to determine what led to the fatal plane crash.